March is Women’s History Month, and the Albuquerque Museum is celebrating the legacy of leading women through the photographic lens. The museum is opening its historically minded women’s art exhibit, “We Lead, Others Follow,” on March 6.
The exhibit focuses on women in photography from the late 1800s through the 1950s, specifically in the Albuquerque area. It features photos from the collections of five historical local studios, including the Cobb and Potter Studios.
“When it comes to women photographers and their history, it usually comes down to talking about women in the 1920s,” Albuquerque Museum’s Digital Archivist Jillian Hartke explains. “The women who few speak of, however, are the ones who were not allowed to vote. So it’s that historic milestone when people start to view women as workers.”
The exhibit emphasizes women working, long before they could cast ballots. Around the turning point of the century, women photographers in Albuquerque were ahead of their time. Through entrepreneurship and creativity, five major photographic studios came to prominence during this time. “In between these eras, there was this women’s club formed together in order to develop women’s entrepreneurship. They wanted more women involved in Albuquerque, so they were taking women in to train them for their studios in order to become photographers,” Hartke says.
A long overdue light is finally shining on these trailblazers, visually representing how their pioneering work shaped the photography business in Albuquerque. The exhibit features a variety of photos taken over the past century and highlights how these women developed a sense of mentorship with each other in their community.
“Most of these women weren’t going to school or getting into college, so they relied on passing on this knowledge of entrepreneurship in order to continue their endeavors,” Hartke says. “That’s what this show is really about; it’s about showing photography didn’t just start in the 1920s for women. There were these generations before that, where women were learning how to run a studio and become really good at it.”
Not only was this a progressive moment for women’s rights, but it was also a progression in an artistic medium. There were limited features on the cameras these women were using, and there were limited business actions women could take cx. Women could not open a bank account by law in their own name. These women came up with creative tactics as entrepreneurs to keep their businesses afloat.
“We Lead, Others Follow” is the picture perfect event to celebrate the beginning of Women’s History Month. And if you miss the opening of the exhibition, the museum is hosting the event “Women to the Front: Photography Mentorship in Early Albuquerque,” May 16 from 2 to 3pm. For more info go to cabq.gov/artsculture/albuquerque-museum.
We Lead, Others Follow, Photo Archives Exhibition, On view March 6 through Nov. 14, 2021, Albuquerque Museum, 2000 Mountain Rd. NW