Through the female gaze: women and work in Italy since the 1950s


Italian Cultural Institute, London, 3-23 December 2021

Italian Cultural Institute, Edinburgh, 8 March - 30 April 2022


The exhibition looks at how female photographers have explored the world of work in contemporary Italy, with over 100 selected images from the work of 12 female artists and two collectives, together with important loans from the Donata Pizzi Collection and a selection of images from UDI (Union of Italian Women) Archive in Bologna. 

A constellation of women from different generations are brought together through their shared use of the medium of photography as a means of personal emancipation and political inquiry. The selection includes: Paola Agosti, Marcella Campagnano, Lisetta Carmi, Liliana Barchiesi, Letizia Battaglia, Cristina Omenetto, Collettivo Donne Fotoreporter, Nicole Gravier, Gruppo del Mercoledì, Allegra Martin, Gabriella Mercadini, Michela Palermo, Alessandra Spranzi, Francesca Volpi .


Among the artists presented here, there are some who are well-known to the general public and have garnered international recognition, such as Letizia Battaglia, the first woman to head the photo team of the newspaper L 'Ora and who shot for over a decade the mafia killings in Palermo; or Lisetta Carmi, well known for her trailblazer series “I travestiti” (1965). On display on this occasion is her series dedicated to the workers in the Port of Genoa, and in the cork factories in Sardinia. 

The exhibition is presented as a long sequence, accompanied by two site-specific video projections.  Two main themes are investigated:  documentary photography of the world of work, broadly construed, and artistic experimentation understood as "research into the self in between female identity and social roles".  The exhibition demonstrates how the medium of photography forced the recognition of the increasing relevance of women for the world of work in postwar Italy, and therefore as potential political subjects, but also the fact that defining “work” has been contentious from a gendered perspective. Finally, the exhibition also shows female photographers at work and the kind of projects by which they gained a prominent place in Italian and international photography.

Through the Female Gaze is curated by Maria Chiara Di Trapani and coordinated by historians Ilaria Favretto, Nico Pizzolato and Eloisa Betti. It is sponsored and funded by ASMI, Kingston University, Middlesex University, Italian Cultural Institute (London and Edinburgh), with loans from UDI archive, Bologna; Donata Pizzi Collection; Cineteca di Bologna; Noi Donne magazine.

A selection of 64 images will be on display, from the 3rd of December, on a virtual platform, freely accessible on this link.

Published: November 19, 2021