The Best Female Photographers at Art Basel Miami Beach

These four female artists are redefining portrait photography.

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Dec 8 2016, 4:00pm

Deana Lawson, Oath, 2013. Courtesy of Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

This article contains adult content. 

Dazzling light projections, hashtag-happy pop-ups, and catchy, participatory installations often steal the show at massive art fairs like Art Basel Miami Beach, but this year it's several quiet yet compelling photo series that really captivate. Take a moment away from the champagne-sponsored carts and big name gallery booths and you'll find thoughtful meditations on what it means to be a woman in 2016. In sobering black-and-white photos and colorful, digitally edited shots, these photographers explore female identity and expressions of sexuality to find new, liberatory modes of representation.

Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi, Ntozabantu VI, 2016. All images © Zanele Muholi. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York

The South African photographer Zanele Muholi makes black-and-white photos of stoic women in tightly cropped frames. One image at the Stevenson gallery booth shows a nude woman holding up a photo of two rhinos. This meta-picture highlights her upper body strength and fierce eyes; she seems pointedly disinterested in including her hair, breasts, and hands in the shot. (You'd be hard-pressed to find a male photographer cropping out the same features in a photo of a female subject.) Muholi has described her mission as "to re-write a black, queer, and trans visual history of South Africa" that evidences their strength and resistance.

Zanele Muholi, Sebenzile, Parktown, 2016

Zanele Muholi, Dudu, Parktown, 2016

Collier Schorr

The Leaving Behind, 2016. Collier Schorr, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

Collier Schorr's hazy, screenshot-style photo of a woman skyping someone from her computer is installed at the 303 Gallery booth. Wearing a black lace negligee and sporting a septum ring, the subject's skin glows with an electric, yellow-blue light. The haphazard angle it's shot from and imperfect cropping (her eyes are out of the frame) are bold gestural moves that put forward a new idea of portrait photography that is more raw, experimental, and revelatory.

Deana Lawson

Deana Lawson, Living Room, Brownsville, Brooklyn, 2015

Deana Lawson's luminous photographs of black women and couples are on view next to abstract sculptures and a LED light installation at Rhona Hoffman Gallery's booth. In her work, Lawson explores familial relationships, female sexuality, and what she refers to as "black aesthetics." In one portrait a woman wearing a satin, sapphire-blue dress gazes directly at the camera with her hands posed upwards as if in prayer. The cut-out fabric at her middle draws attention to a pregnant belly—taking what would otherwise be a straightforward portrait of a woman in a domestic space to a new level of beauty and bizarrity.

Deana Lawson, Mama Goma, Gemena, DR Congo, 2014

Deana Lawson, Roxie and Raquel, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2010. Courtesy of Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

Talia Chetrit

Talia Chetrit, Cable Release, 2016. Courtesy of Kaufmann Repetto gallery

The dispatch of Talia Chetrit photos on view at the Kaufman Repetto booth from a recent show in Milan take on voyeurism and rail against objectification. In one photo, a camera cord coils up suggestively to meet a plush set of pubic hair; in another, a black, heart shape-ribbed dress conceals half of the subject's chest while revealing one breast. In an especially provocative shot, she is naked and bending over to photograph her reflection in a mirror—turning her body into a distinctly sculptural form. By turning the lens on herself, Chetrit at once makes herself vulnerable and emboldens her identity, inviting the viewer to do the same.

Talia Chetrit, Dress, 2016

Talia Chetrit, Plastic, 2016

Which photographers did you enjoy most at Art Basel Miami Beach? Let us know on Twitter or on The Creators Project's Instagram, and click here to see more of The Creators Project's Art Week Miami coverage. 

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