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Individual Experience: The Photographs of Ida Wyman

November 9, 2007 – July 13, 2008

child with curlers in her hair and her fists on her hips, wearing a button-up shirt and pants with suspenders
Ida Wyman, Girl with Curlers, Los Angeles, 1949. Gelatin silver print, 11 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches. Museum Purchase Fund, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

“The camera was a way to get closer–as if you had a child or a small dog. It was a very good introduction to someone else’s life.”

Ida Wyman, 2011 interview with B&W Magazine


Individual Experience presents a body of work spanning four decades from American photojournalist Ida Wyman. Drawn principally from the years following World War II—her most active period as a freelance photographer—these images depict vignettes from daily life in America’s modern metropolitan centers, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Twenty-five of Wyman’s black-and-white photographs are on display in the Museum’s Works-on-Paper Study Center, where they will remain through May 9, 2008.

Wyman, like many women during the war years, seized the opportunity to pursue a professional career. In 1943, she began working in the mailroom at Acme Newspictures (later UPI), where she eventually became the agency’s first female printer, helping to forge a path for women in the chiefly male world of photojournalism.

Resisting the detached cynicism that dominated much of American photography in the postwar era, Wyman’s work expresses a sympathy toward her subjects that is uncharacteristic of her time. The often indistinguishable backdrops in her photographs have a universalizing effect on their inhabitants—at the same time documenting an America increasingly defined by its uniformity. Solitary figures, often women and children, frequently occupy her gaze, where they are subject to an intimacy uncommonly seen in urban images.

A resident of the Bronx until 2006, Wyman now lives in Madison. Her work has appeared in many magazines and other publications over the years. Her photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and The New York Public Library, among many other public and private collections. This is her first one-person exhibition in a museum.

Exhibition Support

Individual Experience: The Photographs of Ida Wyman has been generously funded by The Douglas Stewart Company.