Close Enough: New Perspectives from 12 Women Photographers at Magnum presents an immersive installation with multiple layers of photographs and moving images that foreground human relationships. Bringing gender to the forefront, the exhibition probes the boundaries of proximity and asks what is “close” for photographers today, and what are the strategies that elicit this intimacy? The responses unfold the complex gender dynamics that women experience behind the camera.
In Hannah Price’s “City of Brotherly Love” (2010), striking portraits of male strangers are the result of a game of attraction between Price and the men who initially approach her by catcalling. Proximity here is about an exchange that is not financial but deeply psychological, if not disturbing. Similarly, Cristina de Middel enters the intimate space of sexual transactions in “Gentlemen’s Club” (2015), a tight grid of portraits through which the artist records the stories of men involved with sex workers, pushing herself to cross a boundary that she describes as precarious. As viewers, we look at these portraits as if through a periscope, entering an underground space that the photographer has set out to bravely excavate.
If the encounter is with another woman, the collaboration can be as playful as transgressive. “You allowed me to look at you so I could understand myself better,” says Bieke Depoorter to her sitter-become-friend, Agata. The boundaries between inside and outside collapse in this extraordinary installation where photographs and animated stills are punctuated with intimate writing. A process of identification culminates with a video of the two women dancing together, and the photographic frame dissolves.
Close Enough opens a narrative dimension that is relational in content and form. Lua Ribeira’s personal involvement with Spanish youth engaged with trap and drill music is evident in her series Agony in the Garden (2022), which unravels an epochal narrative of precarity as her subjects perform pain and ecstasy. In A Room of Her Own, Susan Meiselas animates photographs of interiors with short sentences that run on small monitors and convey the emotions experienced by victims of domestic violence. Newsha Tavakolian also plays with language boundaries by drawing an analogy between the hormonal state of PMS and the political state of her country, Iran. “There is no filter,” she says, “between you, your body, and the rest of the world.”
The show excels at representing personal stories where stills are layered onto moving images, where the cinematic anticipation of future events is in dialogue with the photographer’s past. As these women provocatively show, photography as a relationship is about transitions, collaborations, reflections, and is, by necessity, fluid and evolving.
Close Enough: New Perspectives from 12 Women Photographers at Magnum continues at the International Center of Photography (79 Essex Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through January 9. The exhibition was curated by Charlotte Cotton.