Paris — Magnum Photos is honored to exhibit Susan Meiselas: Carnival Strippers Revisited from 18 February to 30 April 2022 in the newly-opened gallery located at 68 Rue Léon Frot, in Paris. Carnival Strippers Revisited will present for the first time Meiselas’ early color photographs taken in the 1970s alongside her iconic black and white series.
The summer of 1972 launched Meiselas’ life as a photographer. When she arrived in Bangor, Maine, Meiselas encountered two large tents advertising “men-only” girl shows. As a woman, she was barred from entering, which intensified her curiosity. This exclusion inspired her to meet, photograph, and share the stories of the carnival strippers as she followed them for the next four summers. Meiselas traveled with the ‘girl shows’ to 15 locations across the USA, documenting their working lives. This sustained personal engagement resulted in an immersive body of work exploring themes of intimacy, vulnerability, gender politics, and sexuality.
“Over the years, I had forgotten my first chance encounter with a stripper in the carnival bathroom in 1972. Meeting that dark-haired woman led to a journey of many returns. It compelled me to meet and speak to the women who participated in the girl shows,” Meiselas commented in 2021. “What I saw from inside was that the girls pictured themselves differently. Stripping was an opportunity for many of them. I felt a tension between how they perceived themselves and how society was looking at them—not just the men but the women’s liberation movement.”
Against the backdrop of the emerging women’s rights movement, Carnival Strippers became a seminal visual reference in conversations around gender politics and sexual expression. For Meiselas to bring the hidden world of carnival stripping to public attention was provocative.
Highlights in the exhibition include original photographic ‘work’ prints and other archival materials from the 1970s, including interviews by the photographer with the women she came to know.
Samantha McCoy, Gallery Director said: “In an era where women’s rights can never be taken for granted, this incredible body of work acts as a metaphor for the strength and fragility of women around the world. These remarkable images epitomize the societal tensions women face every day. This body of work remains a tour de force.”
The show coincides with the release of the third edition of the book Carnival Strippers, including an accompanying book titled, Making Of. The two are published together by Steidl as Carnival Strippers Revisited, a remarkable title that features never-before-seen color images, handwritten field notes, transcriptions of audio recordings, and other archival materials.