A small but timely—and dramatic—exhibition at The Ringling is doing its part to make viewers ask themselves about who sits for a photographic image, who takes that image, and who’s looking at it and how. Being Seen, consisting of 18 works by mostly female photographers, and one nonbinary photographer, is on view through Jan. 3 in the Searing Wing of the museum.
The show features works mainly from the 21st century, with a few examples of 20th-century works by such pioneering women as Ilse Bing (born in 1899), Lotte Jacobi (born 1896) and Ruth Bernhard (born 1905).
Curator of photography and media arts Christopher Jones put together the show, drawn from the extensive collection of Sarasotans Stanton B. and Nancy W. Kaplan (a recent gift to the museum) as well as through acquisitions and gifts from the artists themselves. Curator of modern and contemporary art Ola Wlusek was also involved in preparing the exhibit.
“It’s exciting to me because these photographers identify as female and nonbinary, and it’s very rare to go to a large institution and see almost exclusively all-female” works, Wlusek says. “And it’s also exciting to incorporate the African-American or black artists” in the show.
Wlusek says the images also explore the idea of intimacy, with some set in the rooms and personal spaces of the sitters. “Some are extremely staged,” she says, “and others more spontaneous. A lot have to do with self-representation. I hope viewers will arrive at a reflection of art history—what we’re used to looking at, especially with female and black bodies, and also at who’s taking those images. We want viewers to arrive at the people behind the lens.”
For more information about the Being Seen exhibit, go to ringling.org.