Past Exhibitions

Woman: A Celebration, Photographs from the Collection of Peter Fetterman

Exhibition Through January 4, 2004

Woman: A Celebration presents an unprecedented look at the representation of women in photography over the last 140 years, spanning nearly the entire history of the medium and including work from a variety of cultural viewpoints. Woman: A Celebration, Photographs from the Collection of Peter Fetterman is a survey of some of the most memorable portraits of women, famous and unknown, made by celebrated photographers from the mid-19th century through the 20th century. 

Dozens of immortal photographers Julia Margaret Cameron, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, and Ruth Orkin among them - have shaped our image of women through unforgettable photographs that have become part of the public consciousness. This exhibition of more than 100 photographs features subjects ranging from a grinning Greta Garbo to a mother sharing a silent moment with her infant; from jazz singer Eartha Kitt to an anonymous 19th-century Chinese woman. Woman: A Celebration illuminates the many moods of its subject though a breadth of photographic styles.

From sepia-toned Pictorialism to bold black-and-white modernism, from purely artistic expressions to documentary photojournalism, these photographs resonate with emotion. Portrayed in various roles throughout the life cycle, the women depicted embody the human experience. There are traditional portraits and nudes, compositions of women at work and at play, icons of timeless beauty, and pictures of powerful individuals who have changed the world. Among the many famous faces are Sarah Bernhardt, Ella Fitzgerald, Audrey Hepburn, Billie Holiday, Helen Keller, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Mother Teresa.

The exhibition encompasses significant developments in the history of photography. Images of women in 19th-century travel and ethnographic photography from Asia, Africa, and the Americas demonstrate the era's quest for empirical knowledge and belief in the camera as a scientific tool. During the 20th century the promotion of photography as an art form inspired the evolution of images ranging from soft-focus nudes that imitated paintings to straight geometric compositions celebrating the medium's inherent aesthetic qualities. Technological advances in small hand-held cameras enabled photographers to arrest action and capture street activity, creating joyous images of women at amusement parks and dance halls. While mass-media distribution has made photographic images culturally pervasive, this exhibition's selected works represent one collector's personal vision.

Peter Fetterman, a fine art photography dealer based in Santa Monica, has been collecting photographs for twenty-five years. Passionate in his love of the object, he believes that photography's true gift is the power to immortalize moments that transcend the passing of time. Fetterman explains: A great photograph is like a great novel. You're one person before reading it and a different person afterward. . . . I never consciously set out to collect images of women but one day as I dreamily looked around my home, I had an epiphany: that is precisely what I had done.

All of the photographs in the exhibition are reproduced in the accompanying book, Woman

A Celebration was published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, it is a jewel-like clothbound volume edited and with an introduction by Peter Fetterman and with a foreword by actress Whoopi Goldberg.


Kurt Hutton, Fun Fair, 1938; Silver gelatin print, 12 x 16 inches; Collection of Peter Fetterman.


Woman: A Celebration, Photographs from the Collection of Peter Fetterman was presented by