"Women of the Photo League"

by Fred Ritchin

The Women of the Photo League

After Photography


Kim Bourus at New York’s Higher Pictures gallery has just opened a fascinating exhibition on  twenty-six women who were members of the Photo League. Featuring Berenice Abbott, Ruth Orkin and Helen Levitt, as well as many extraordinary if lesser-known photographers such as Marion Palfi, Sonia (Handelman) Meyer and Ida Wyman, this is a gem of a show, running until May 2. With lecturers and teachers such as Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and W. Eugene Smith, the Photo League was a group of idealistic people who believed in social documentary photography, hosted exhibitions, met to talk, and represent a sense of community that is now painfully hard to find. But in 1949, Angela Calomiris, one of the women in the League who was also an FBI informant, publicly testified that other League members were Communists. The League ceased to exist in 1951, a prominent casualty of the anti-Communist witch hunt of the day.

And if you will not be in New York, look at the Higher Pictures web site for an impressive gallery of these photographers’ work.


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