Continuing my photographic focus this month I wandered into Derby Museum to look at the latest exhibition of a selection of work by Claude Cahun who was a French photographer working in the 1930s. It was an interesting contrast with the work of Helen Levitt I recently saw at the Photographers’ Gallery. Both were very early female photographers very much at the forefront of documentary photography and both explored surrealist ideas in their work but on different sides of the Atlantic (France and New York).
Cahun’s work is as ambiguous as her gender-neutral name, which no doubt made it easier to work in a male-dominated photographic world. I find her work eerie and it sometimes has the appearance of being very contemporary, in how it blurs the boundaries of gender and sexuality. There are references to theatre and the stage in some of the shots which were possibly influenced by her literary family upbringing. A small exhibition but as always, Derby Museum offers a perfectly satisfying and well-curated experience.