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Before the Kodak Girl: Women in Nineteenth-Century Photography

Kara Fiedorek Felt, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Held on November 24, 2019, in conjunction with the exhibition The Eye of the Sun: Nineteenth-Century Photographs from the National Gallery of Art, the lecture Before the Kodak Girl explores the many roles that women played in nineteenth-century photography. From working in major studios to producing photographs as professionals and amateurs, women were deeply involved in the medium’s first half-century, though histories and collections of photography tend to emphasize only a few extraordinary examples. Kara Felt illustrates the diverse contributions of women—highlighting a selection of known and relatively unknown figures—while discussing the factors enabling, and limiting, their advancement.

Ultimately, the lecture illuminates the emergence of photography as a central interest of the modern woman in the 1890s, when Eastman Kodak launched a highly successful campaign to sell its products through imagery of the independent, camera-toting “Kodak Girl.”