When “Particular Passions” was published in 1981, it was revolutionary for shedding light on the accomplishments of women. In 2018, Gilbert believes the show is particularly timely.
Fifty-three years ago, Gilbert started taking pictures of her children. “When my children came into the world, everything changed,” she said. “I documented their lives and created a photography workshop out of the school my children attended.” Some years later, when the Pace Gallery commissioned her to photograph Louise Nevelson in 1976, she said her life changed yet again. And so began her “Passions” project to photograph women who were pioneers in their fields.
“Unearthing these women was not simple,” Gilbert said. “In the late 70s, the Internet did not exist. Information on groups of women was nonexistent. Ladies’ Home Journal published the first comprehensive list of 75 distinguished women in 1972, which included women like [President Richard] Nixon’s secretary, Rosemary Woods, and Rose Kennedy, whose positions were predicated on their relationship with men.”
Instead, Gilbert spent time identifying and finding subjects on her own. “First, I determined the disciplines — art, medicine, science, law and so forth — and then consulted experts in those fields and asked for their recommendations,” she said. “Some were well known, even world-renowned, while others weren’t but were just as significant in their own fields.” She set the criteria that each subject needed at least three referrals by solid sources in their industry before she would consider including them.
Throughout her process, her goal stayed consistent: to create a body of work that identified key women who were the first to create opportunities in fields traditionally dominated by men. “Change will continue, but these are the women who were the pioneers of this change,” Gilbert said.
Here are some of those women.
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