Last Saturday saw the opening of the exhibition Zoe Strauss: Ten Years at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a mid-career retrospective of the acclaimed photographer’s work. Today we look at this exhibition, the life and work of this influential photographer, and Yale’s exhibition catalogue which accompanies the show.
Zoe Strauss (b. 1970) is something of a celebrity in her native Philadelphia. With little formal training as a photographer or artist (she took only one photography course at a community college as a teenager) her beautiful, often stark photographs have received international acclaim from the artistic community, offering a poignant, troubling portrait of contemporary America.
The Philadelphia-born Strauss (whose ambition is ‘to create an epic narrative that reflects the beauty and struggle of everyday life’) first came to public attention when she founded the Philadelphia Public Art Project in 1995, a one-woman project aimed at giving the people of Philadelphia access to art by exhibiting in non-traditional venues. Five years later, she began using photography to represent her chosen subjects, which primarily consist of disenfranchised working class people and places.