Photography & Video Framework

Work by women photographers in Santa Monica exhibit bound by dedication to social justice

The six female artists whose work is featured in Women Look Out, a new exhibit at the Arena1 Gallery in Santa Monica, have a deep connection to social justice.

The work of each artist is inspired by a social issue. Many became personally committed to their issue and intend for their work to form an avenue for advocacy. For instance, Stephanie Sinclair founded a nonprofit organization, Too Young to Wed, in the course of documenting child, early and forced marriage.

The strong connection between the artists and their issues does not simplify the work in any way. Instead, the images invite the viewer to consider the issue and their own feelings about it. “Each of the photographers is using a lens to invite our gaze on her subjects, of course, but she is also inviting us to join her in looking out for and caring for them as well,” curator Sherry Frumkin said. Frumkin believes this engagement with viewers “distinguishes these photos from other photography, which can feel distanced and indifferent.”

Barbara Grover began her project, "This Is Hunger," with a commission from the non-profit, Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
Barbara Grover began her project, "This Is Hunger," with a commission from the non-profit, Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. (Barbara Grover)
Grover photographed and interviewed over 70 people across the country to document factors contributing to food insecurity and hunger.
Grover photographed and interviewed over 70 people across the country to document factors contributing to food insecurity and hunger. (Barbara Grover)

The concept for the exhibition came together fairly quickly. Frumkin was discouraged by the Trump administration’s handling of Holocaust Remembrance Day and Black History Month and decided she wanted to do something during Women’s History Month.

After a meeting with Iris Schneider to look at her photos of work being done in Kenya by the Samburu Project, it became clear to Frumkin that Schneider and the other artists “shared a similar vision” despite how different their subjects were.

Jona Frank, based in Santa Monica, works in Liverpool, England, photographing young boxers. (Jona Frank)
Jona Frank, based in Santa Monica, works in Liverpool, England, photographing young boxers. (Jona Frank)
The boys are part of a sports program designed to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.
The boys are part of a sports program designed to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. (Jona Frank)

The editing process was straightforward. Frumkin was already familiar with much of the work, and so a main concern was how much she could include “without overwhelming the space.” In the end, Frumkin put together a selection of work that suggests a powerful concept: “women looking out at the world and caring about it and asking us to do that too.”

Iris Schneider documented water wells and the vast distances women must travel without them in Kenya with the Samburu Project.
Iris Schneider documented water wells and the vast distances women must travel without them in Kenya with the Samburu Project. (Iris Schneider )
Marissa Roth's project "One Person Crying: Women and War" shows women and children who suffer in wars "not of their own creation."
Marissa Roth's project "One Person Crying: Women and War" shows women and children who suffer in wars "not of their own creation." (Marissa Roth)
Amy Elkins began her project on the death penalty in 2009 by corresponding with death row inmates. In 2015 she had a visual archive representing 530 executions in Texas.
Amy Elkins began her project on the death penalty in 2009 by corresponding with death row inmates. In 2015 she had a visual archive representing 530 executions in Texas. (Amy Elkins)

The exhibit will be on display through April 8 at the Arena1 Gallery, 3026 Airport Ave., in Santa Monica. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

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