Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment Review – A Spectacular Exhibition at the Field Museum

I love the photographs in National Geographic.  Who doesn’t?  They are beautiful and powerful and they tell stories-instantly.  I rarely think about the brave photographers who capture these stories.  Fortunately, the current exhibition at the Field Museum offers the opportunity to learn about some very important and courageous photographers in “Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment”. 


Women of Vision entrance

This exhibition opened in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2013 and has visited many venues, mostly art galleries.  Happily, this exhibition is in Chicago, the second to the last stop.  It highlights work from 11 women photojournalists as they immersed themselves in their subjects’ live in order to tell the stories of underrepresented people and worlds.



All of the photos are moving and succeed in pulling in the viewer.  Parts of the exhibition tell about the way in which the story and the photos need to come together.  For me, the most fascinating part of this exhibition was a video interview with the photographers.  One of the interviewees commented that photography was on area in which women could excel in ways that they couldn’t in other fields.  I found this fascinating.  Each of the women have different interests and a different focus in their work but all of them tell important and powerful stories. 


Lots to discuss

I had the opportunity of speaking with Janet M. Hong, Project Manager Exhibitions for the Field and she told me there are about twenty people on the team that put this exhibition in place.  She explained that the close relationship between the Field Museum and National Geographic, in that each does independent research, made this the perfect venue. “The Field collects the physical objects of human cultures around the world, so to us, contemporary photography offers a great counterpoint in ways to understand cultures,” explains Jaap Hoogstraten, The Field Museum’s Director of Exhibitions.  “We think it’s interesting that, worldwide, female photographers often have access to community spaces that their male colleagues do not.”     



And “ For the last decade, some of our most powerful stories have been produced by a generation of photojournalists who are women.  These women are as different as the places and the subjects they have covered, but they all share the same passion and commitment to storytelling that has come to define National Geographic,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions. “This exhibition reaffirms the Society’s position as a respected leader in the field of photography.”


Collected works

To really appreciate the work of these amazing women, come to see their work.

They are: Kitra Cahana, Jodi Cobb, Diane Cook, Carolyn Drake, Lynn Johnson, Beverly Joubert, Erika Larsen, Stephanie Sinclair, Maggie Steber, Amy Toensing. Their personal stories are long and impressive and you can find more about them when the exhibition opened in 2013.


The women on assignment

When visiting this exhibition, I also learned about a program run by the Field Museum called “Women in Science”.  This group boasts more than 500 members from Chicago and beyond who are dedicated to inspiring, encouraging and increasing participation of women in the sciences.  Members receive many benefits such as: free monthly seminars, a free yearly symposium and yearly mixer.  Members also receive information about the Women in Science Summer Internship program.  To join or find further information go to Field Museum Women in Science.



Final words


More information on other Field Museum Programs


A book with the same title is available at the National Geographic Store


Photos: B.Keer


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