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National Geographic’s Exhibition “Women: A Century of Change” Draws From the Acclaimed Photo Archives to Showcase a Global Chronicle of the Lives of Women

On October 22, 2019—following the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote—National Geographic is opening “Women: A Century of Change,” an exhibition that celebrates the trailblazing women who have redefined what it means to be a woman.

Throughout time women have exuded strength and resilience against all odds, strived for and achieved excellence, and persevered in the fight for equality. On October 22, 2019—following the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote—National Geographic is opening “Women: A Century of Change,” an exhibition that celebrates the trailblazing women who have redefined what it means to be a woman. The more than 100 images on display draw from the National Geographic archives featuring images taken by renowned National Geographic photographers, including such groundbreakers as Jodi Cobb, Lynsey Addario, Ami Vitale and Erika Larsen. The exhibition reveals the lives of women from more than 30 countries with each image offering a glimpse into the lives of women worldwide, allowing visitors to reflect on the representation of women since National Geographic’s founding in 1888. 

The exhibition is divided into six themes: Joy, Beauty, Love, Wisdom, Strength and Hope, with the collections in each theme evoking a sense of their respective emotion. From Amy Toensing’s photo of the joy felt between two women participating in India’s traditional Holi festival to Lynn Johnson’s photo conveying the strength of women traversing the desert plains of Kenya to bring water to their families, these photos invite reflection and recognition of the fact that despite differences and distance, we all experience similar emotions. 

The National Geographic archive features many millions of images of the world’s women taken over the last century. This exhibition is a way to bring this extraordinary collection to light.Kathryn Keane, the vice president of public programming and director of the National Geographic Museum

Interspersed throughout the exhibition are fascinating “Through the Lens” panels that feature behind-the-scenes anecdotes provided by the photographers on their experiences capturing some of their most compelling photos. Each story reveals the intangible connection made between the photographer and the subject and the lasting impression this moment left on them. 

Additionally, the exhibition features captivating images taken by Larsen titled “Portraits of Power.” Visitors will have the opportunity to view arresting portraits of trailblazing women like Oprah Winfrey, gun control activist Emma González, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 2019 Women’s World Cup champion Alex Morgan, founder of the Me Too movement Tarana Burke, philanthropist Melinda Gates and many more. Accompanying their images is an intimate interview between each iconic woman and National Geographic magazine’s first female editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg. These diverse women have amassed an impact all their own—each experiencing their own challenges and triumphs—yet working toward a common goal: equality. 

While the exhibition draws primarily from National Geographic’s image collection, the inclusion of these portraits shows that the archive is a living collection. As time progresses and the role of women continues to evolve around the world, National Geographic will be documenting the barriers, the breakthroughs and everything in between. For now the “Portraits of Power” will serve as images from the archive of tomorrow—a collection of images declaring that women who follow their convictions can overcome anything. “Women: A Century of Change” will be on display at the National Geographic Museum from October 22, 2019, through spring of 2020. 

The exhibition’s opening coincides with the release of the publication “Women: The National Geographic Image Collection,” on sale October 15, 2019. The book contains 450 stunning photographs—drawn from National Geographic’s unparalleled image archive—including many additional images not found in the exhibition. Additionally, the November issue of National Geographic magazine will launch a yearlong, enterprise-wide project exploring women’s lives around the globe. National Geographic’s print and digital platforms will celebrate women through compelling photography, in-depth reporting and essays by influential storytellers. A corresponding one-hour companion documentary, “Women of Impact: Changing the World,” will also air on National Geographic channel at 10/9c on October 26, 2019, in the U.S., and worldwide this fall. 

Media Note: National Geographic will be hosting a private “Women of Impact” event on Wednesday October 23, 2019, which will feature a panel discussion with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, author and radio journalist Michele Norris, photojournalist Lynsey Addario and marine biologist Asha de Vos on the changing roles of women around the globe; moderated by Susan Goldberg. For more information, please contact Lexie de los Santos at ldelossantos@ngs.org.

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