Salvador Salas
A reflection of women, 100 years on

A reflection of women, 100 years on

National Geographic's ambitious display made up of nearly 60 photos of inspirational women over the past century can be viewed in Malaga's La Térmica until 5 May

Cristina Pinto


Wednesday, 8 March 2023, 13:48


There were 100 years between the Japanese women photographed by Eliza R. Scidmore in 1918 and the American girls captured by Ismail Ferdous in 2018. A century of changes all over the world, when women created new paths, challenged limits and demolished barriers. In the oldest picture, three women pose in their traditional dresses, and in the most recent we see young women having fun at the Holi festival with their clothes covered in coloured paint.

These are the two extremes of Women: A Century of Change, the National Geographic exhibition that opened this week at Malaga's La Térmica cultural centre.

There, 57 images portray the moving stories of women who overcame adversity and evolved with the times.

The display covers nine decades and has six sections: joy, beauty, love, wisdom, strength and hope, and can be seen until 5 May.

From the girls having fun at the Holi in New York to the obvious happiness of five skaters who posed for Fred Schutz in Washington (1929), "it is a fantastic journey through time with women as the protagonists," explained the curator of the exhibition, Marisa Flórez, who was one of the first photojournalists in Spain, at the opening.

We see the stories of white women, black women, teenagers, mature, rich and poor women, portrayed through photography. Scidmore's photo of the three Japanese ladies in 1918 transmits their happiness and has never been seen in Spain before. Another previously unseen photo is Jodi Cobb's image of Wendy Fitzwilliam in 1998, as she was preparing for the Miss World competition.

There are strong contrasts, such as the photo by Robin Hammond (2014) compared with that of Thomas J. Abercrombie (1986): one shows a young woman with red lips and a cigarette, and the other a woman enveloped in a burkha which covers her face completely.

Salvador Salas
Imagen principal - A reflection of women, 100 years on
Imagen secundaria 1 - A reflection of women, 100 years on
Imagen secundaria 2 - A reflection of women, 100 years on

"The display is divided into sections but any of the photos could be in any of them," said Marisa Flórez, who during the tour of the exhibition pointed out the different types of love shown through the photos of Maggie Steber, Thomas Nebbia and Gerd Ludwig: two cousins with their faces together, a couple on a train and two kissing by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Everyone stopped voluntarily by the portrait that Cory Richards did in 2010 of an elderly woman (Sherpa Phortse). "You look at this and you just see wisdom," said Marisa Flórez. "The photographer has to blend in, become part of that world until they seem invisible, like a piece of furniture," she explained about one photo by James L. Stanfield (1986). It shows a mine worker lighting a cigarette while advising her 15-year-old daughter - dressed as a bride - not to get married so young.

The big green eyes of the Afghan Girl, Sharbat Gula, photographed by Steve McCurry in 1984 and in 2002, are the same, although their pupils may want to tell those looking very different things. And all these women in the photos are an example of how they are a reflection of others, 100 years on.

The exhibition runs at Malaga's La Térmica until 5 May.


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