SUSAN MEISELAS Intimate Strangers
Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to present two exhibitions of renowned American photographers Mitch Epstein and Susan Meiselas featuring photographs from the dynamic and complex era of the 1970s. While Epstein’s early series Silver + Chrome will be exhibited for the first time, this is Meiselas’ first show with the gallery, also including her 1995 video projection Pandora’s Box.
The exhibition Intimate Strangers juxtaposes two powerful bodies of work by documentary photographer Susan Meiselas. Born in Baltimore in 1948, Meiselas has lived and worked in New York since the 1970s. From 1972 to 1975 she spent her summers photographing and interviewing women who performed striptease for small town carnivals in New England, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. As she followed the shows from town to town, she portrayed the dancers on stage and off, photographing their public performances as well as their private lives. She taped interviews with the dancers, their boyfriends, the show managers, and paying customers. Meiselas’ frank reveal of the lives of these women brought a hidden world to public attention. Produced at the height of the women’s movement in the ‘70s, the series Carnival Strippers reflects the struggle for identity and self-esteem that characterises a complex era of change. The series Pandora’s Box (1995) takes us to an exclusive club in 4,000 square feet in a Manhattan loft that describes itself as “a Disneyland of Domination” and advertises “a wild vacation from reality”. Darkly theatrical and yet not staged, these photographs are presented as a video projection in the exhibition and explore opulent rooms and dungeon-like sets in which Mistress Raven and a staff of young women enact formalized rituals of pain and pleasure. These two very different projects give an insight into a world where women work and make choices, but also form and project their own identities. Creating spaces in which her subjects can speak for themselves, Meiselas throws light on our assumptions about social and gender roles, fantasy and power, pornography and self-expression.
Susan Meiselas studied at Sarah Lawrence College and received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. She has been a member of the photo agency Magnum Photos since 1976. Her works have been presented in exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Kunsthaus Wien in Vienna. Meiselas was awarded the Hasselblad Award, a MacArthur Genius Grant, the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal, the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize and the first Women in Motion Award for her work.