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Publication: Becoming Sisters
© CHRISTINE SPENGLER - The bombing of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 1975. 

Paris Museum Showcases Documentary Work of Women War Photographers

Christina Santucci
Christina Santucci
+March 29, 2022
The combined portfolios of the eight women conflict photographers span more than seven decades and most of the globe - from France during WWII to conflicts in Central America to the Vietnam War and the invasion of Iraq.
And through the end of this year, the Musee de la Liberation de Paris will present their work in a show titled, Femmes Photographes de Guerre.
An estimated 100 documents, more than 80 photographs and a dozen original newspapers and magazines comprise the exhibition, which organizers said shines a light on women's involvement in conflicts, whether as fighters, victims or witnesses.
The Musee described the exhibition as exploring "the notion of gender, specifically the female gaze on war," and undermining "established stereotypes in showing that women are just as capable of photographing and witnessing atrocities as men."
Among the renowned women featured are Lee Miller, a fashion photographer turned war correspondent who chronicled the Liberation of Europe and discovery of Nazi concentration camps with her cameras and famously photographed herself in Adolf Hitler's bathtub, and Catherine Leroy, who spent three years photographing the Vietnam War and was imprisoned by the Vietcong for a brief period in 1968. Leroy later went on to document the conflict in Lebanon, for which she was the first woman to receive the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club of America, according to her biography.
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© FRANÇOISE DEMULDER / ROGER-VIOLLET - Françoise Demulder won the World Press Photo of the Year award for her image of a Palestinian woman pleading with a Phalange gunman in the Karantina neighborhood of East Beirut (also known as La Quarantaine). 
Another photographer in the exhibition - Françoise Demulder - was the first woman to win a World Press Photo prize for a photograph she took during the Lebanese civil war. Demulder, who was known to friends and colleagues as Fifi, also photographed events in southeast Asia, the Middle East, Cuba, Pakistan, Ethiopia and the Vietnam War, the latter of which alongside French colleagues - and sometimes competitors - Leroy and Christine Spengler, according to the Guardian.
In obituaries of her death in 2008, several authors noted how Demulder had once said that "she hated war, but felt compelled to document how it's always the innocent who suffer, while the powerful get richer and richer."
The show also includes the work of Christine Spengler, who in addition to Vietnam documented the consequences of conflicts and wars in Northern Ireland, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Beirut, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Spengler first became enamored with photography while traveling in Chad, she told LensCulture. She, along with Leroy and Demulder, were the star photojournalists of Paris-based agencies, Gamma, Sygma and Sipa in the 1970s and 80s, according to the Guardian.
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© ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/AP/SIPA - US Marines of the 1st Division raid the house of a city council chairman in the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 2, 2004. 
Two of the eight women featured in the exhibition lost their lives while covering war: Gerda Taro, who is believed to be the first woman war photographer to be killed on the frontlines, was wounded by a tank and later died from her injuries the following day in 1937, according to Magnum Photos.
Associated Press photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus was shot to death by an Afghan policeman in 2014, her agency reported.
"Niedringhaus faced down some of the world's greatest dangers and had one of the world's loudest and most infectious laughs. She photographed dying and death, and embraced humanity and life," AP wrote, following her death. "She gave herself to the subjects of her lens, and gave her talents to the world, with images of wars' unwitting victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and beyond."
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© SUSAN MEISELAS / MAGNUM PHOTOS - Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters. Esteli, Nicaragua, 1979. 
Femmes Photographes de Guerre also showcases the work of Susan Meiselas and Carolyn Cole. Meiselas is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America, according to her agency, Magnum Photos. Meiselas is also the founder and co-president of the Magnum Foundation, which through grants and mentorship aims to support social justice and human rights-focused photographers.
A staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times, Cole served as the paper's war correspondent in Kosovo, and later photographed wars in Afghanistan, and Iraq. She won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 2004, "for her cohesive, behind-the-scenes look at the effects of civil war in Liberia, with special attention to innocent citizens caught in the conflict."
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© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times - A picture of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes, is covered with paint. The symbols of political leaders disappeared from Baghdad shortly after American troops captured the city. Baghdad, Iraq, April 2003
Along with the photographs are mementos that provide glimpses into everyday life during wartime, testimonies of atrocities, and highlight the "absurdity" of war and its consequences, the Musee said.
The show opened on March 8 and is slated to close December 31. Tickets to the exhibition can be reserved online.
Christina Santucci
Christina Santucci

Christina is a New York based assignment and photo editor. A longtime photojournalist, she has compl...

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