History of Modern France

The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 8

Zoom lecture




8 December 2021

Dora Maar (1907-97)

The years Lie in Wait for You, c. 1935

Women Photographers in Paris. 1920-1940 - Part 2

with Sylvie Koneski

Following the exhibition that took place at the Met on The new Woman behind the Camera, this lecture will focus on how women photographers took up key vanguard position in Paris between the world wars. “


The New Woman of the 1920s was a powerful expression of modernity, a global phenomenon that embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art”.


The 1930s and 1940s, particularly in Europe, still loom large in any history of photography because of the flowering of various modernisms and avant-gardes, and, of course, the expansion of the illustrated mass media and the photographic book. Many women photographers brought a genuine sophistication and a restless inventiveness to their pictures.

Claude Cahun was a genderqueer pioneer, Jewish Nazi fighter, and radical collage artist. The French photographer’s self portraits are a focused interrogation of identity and gender fluidity.

Dora Maar produced fashion photographs, artful advertising pictures, flattering studio portraits, politically inflected images and the complex disturbing and beautifully crafted Surrealist photomontages that are her most memorable creation.

Gerda Taro left Germany for Paris in 1933 and was given her primary credential as a photojournalist in 1936. When the Spanish Civil War sparked, Taro traveled to Barcelona. She recorded the events with David Seymour and Capa. In 1937, her photos were in demand by the press internationally. Gisèle Freund also fled Germany in 1933 when the Nazis came to power and settled in Paris and began a career as a photographer. In 1939 she took some of her most memorable photographs, many of them in color, of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Colette, George Bernard Shaw, T.S. Eliot and Argentine writer and editor Victoria Ocampo

Gisele Freund, Self Portrait with Rolleiflex 1952

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