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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
603.646.2808
hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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CARNIVAL STRIPPERS

Through the dressing room, Barton, Vermont, 1974
Through the dressing room, Barton, Vermont

Lena’s first day, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
Lena’s first day, Essex Junction, Vermont

Lena on the Bally Box, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
Lena on the Bally Box, Essex Junction, Vermont

Lulu and Debbie, Tunbridge, Vermont, 1974
Lulu and Debbie, Tunbridge, Vermont

Tentful of marks, Tunbridge, Vermont, 1974
Tentful of marks, Tunbridge, Vermont

1972-76

“At the time I was taking those pictures, ‘women’s lib’ was at the forefront of contemporary consciousness. And what was women’s lib? Women being able to do what they wanted to do . . . It was surprising, [the carnival strippers’] willingness to acknowledge that they were being exploited, but had some other purpose in mind. There wasn’t room for that kind of subtlety in the feminist discussion at that time. That is what I wanted to give texture to.”

Susan Meiselas spent three summers following and photographing the women who worked the “girl shows” for traveling carnivals in New England, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. She was drawn initially to these women’s stories, their socio-economic circumstances, their relationships with the men in their lives (family members, carnival managers, and audience members), their attitude toward the work that they did, and their plans for the future. Together with recorded interviews, the photographs she took of them, published in 1976 in her book titled Carnival Strippers, present an intimate documentary of these women’s experiences both on and behind the stage. As a result of this work, Susan Meiselas was voted in by Magnum Photos, the internationally recognized cooperative agency to which she still belongs today.

 

Susan Meiselas

Through the dressing room, Barton, Vermont
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collection, International Center of Photography. © Susan Meiselas, Magnum

 

Lena’s first day, Essex Junction, Vermont
1973
Gelatin silver print
Collection, International Center of Photography. © Susan Meiselas, Magnum

 

Lena on the Bally Box, Essex Junction, Vermont
1973
Gelatin silver print
Collection, International Center of Photography. © Susan Meiselas, Magnum

 

Lulu and Debbie, Tunbridge, Vermont
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collection, International Center of Photography. © Susan Meiselas, Magnum

 

Tentful of marks, Tunbridge, Vermont
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collection, International Center of Photography. © Susan Meiselas, Magnum

Last Updated: 3/29/10