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Celebrating Women


In 15 countries on five continents, a photojournalist documents festivals that honor the many facets of women.

This article appeared in our December 2004 issue.There are hundreds of festivals around the world honoring women — their spirit, their accomplishments, their rites of passage. Some events commemorate historical achievements, others grow out of religious beliefs and mythology. For five years, I photographed celebrations in 15 countries on five continents. When events clashed with the values of my own culture, I set aside judgments and simply recorded what the participants and spectators experienced. In doing that, I saw the full range of how women are appreciated in different cultures, and how richly dimensioned life could be if we explode the limits of what our societies consider “appropriate.” And I found that it was impossible to resist participating. I quickly learned that if I put my notepad in my pocket, held my camera in my right hand, and put my microphone under my left arm, my left hand was available to sample the delicious food! I often danced and sang along. Sometimes I became so transported that I forgot my journalist’s tools and just watched the spectacle in wonder. China: Women as …

Inspired by the author's work, the exhibition Celebrating Women is the first to be curated by The International Museum of Women. The exhibit ran in 2004 in San Francisco, featuring live performances and educational programs as well as photographs, costumes and artifacts from many festivals around the world. 

Before focusing on photojournalism, Paola Gianturco worked for more than 30 years in advertising, public relations, and marketing. This article is adapted from her book Celebrating Women (powerHouse Books, 2004), the royalties from which will be contributed to the International Museum of Women. She is also co-author and photographer of In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World.

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