Women of Vision

WomenofVision-599x449Yesterday my family and I went to Chicago’s Field Museum. After checking out several other exhibits, we went to the Women of Vision exhibit.

Women of Vision shows some photography that 11 female photographers have shot for various National Geographic stories. The exhibit is (not surprisingly) spectacular. Organized by photographer, the subjects range all over the map, from women’s lives (there was a great display of women in Afghanistan) to architecture to religion (Muslims, Uigars, Christians in the Middle East, shamanism) to African animals. 

The second or third photographer was Stephanie Sinclair. The first wall of her work featured photographs of child brides (some of which are on her site here). The pictures were deeply affecting and, mostly, heartbreaking.

Then, on the next wall: pictures from the Yearning for Zion ranch. I knew from my first glance from the corner of my eye that she’d photographed Fundamentalist Mormons—the hair and dress on the first woman’s portrait were immediately obvious.

And the photos (from this article, which is behind a paywall) were also deeply affecting, but in an entirely different way.[fn1] The handful of photographs (I think there were seven or eight) included a portrait, pictures of women working, and pictures of women playing. (The fifth photo in this slideshow was included in the exhibit, and is the one that most stands out to me, both because of the strangeness of wearing the same thing swimming as you wear not swimming and because they look like they’re having a blast.)

Even after the exhibit I’m not a fan of polygamy or of the FLDS church. But the exhibit let me see these women as people doing all of the things people do. And there’s something awesome about changing abstract Others into relatable people.

So if you’re in Chicago before September 11, go to the Field Museum and see it. (And if you can’t make it here, it will spend the rest of the year in Pittsburgh. So that could be an option.) It’s worth it for the visions these women provide, including the visions of FLDS women.

[fn1] Two years earlier, she published these photos in the New York Times Magazine. Her National Geographic pictures are similarly intimate, but different.


  1. Wow, I need to go see this before school starts!

  2. Thanks, Sam. I wish I could see that!

  3. I used to have real disdain for FLDS, and I still do for the leaders, but I’ve developed real sympathy for the average members. I had a few co-workers a few years ago (neither of whom were LDS) who got really into reading escape from polygamy memoirs, which got me into it. We’re all just people trying to figure out how to make it through the world. We have far more in common than we have differences even with those most unlike us, I realized.

%d bloggers like this: