Dr. Pippa Oldfield is Head of Programme at Impressions Gallery, one of the UK’s leading public-funded spaces for photography. She has curated numerous touring exhibitions, with a particular focus on female photographers, war and conflict, and Latin America. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Durham University, UK, where she undertook her PhD “Calling the Shots: Women's Photographic Engagement with War in Hemispheric America, 1910 to 1990.”
Mrs. Leach’s Revolutionary Albums: A US Observer in Mexico
A Peter Palmquist Award (2012) enabled me to travel to archives in Texas to research women’s photography during the Mexican Revolution. My research in the Harry Ransom Center uncovered a little-known pair of photo-albums produced by Kate Leach, a US citizen who was a resident in northwestern Mexico during the Revolution. By closely examining her albums, I gained insight into women’s snapshot photography, often dismissed as a “feminine,” apolitical and trivial practice. Leach’s albums are wide-ranging and genre-crossing, encompassing the Revolution (with images of military leaders and troops on the move) as well as records of her travels, and family and personal snapshots. She responded creatively to the unfolding armed conflict, actively engaging with the Revolution through photography. Rather than being a bystander to events, Leach presented her own viewpoint as a participant and chronicler in the making of history. Her albums offer an important counternarrative to official, male-dominated histories of the conflict, and demand a reassessment of middle-class provincial women’s engagement with photography and war at the turn of the century.
The research funded by the Peter Palmquist Memorial Fund resulted in the chapter “Mrs. Leach’s Revolutionary Albums: A US Observer in Mexico.” This formed part of my doctoral dissertation (2016) entitled “Calling the Shots: Women's Photographic Engagement with War in Hemispheric America, 1910 to 1990.” An e-thesis is available here: PDF