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Female photographer remembered at Mills

Some of Rosener’s collection in the F.W. Olin Library. (Emily Mibach)
Some of Rosener’s collection in the F.W. Olin Library. (Emily Mibach)

Kathleen Walkup, head of the Mills College book art department, remembers walking into a gallery and watching the crowd part for the women she was chauffeuring for the night, one of whom was the photographer and graphic designer Ann Rosener, a tiny woman with a large presence.

Whispers of “Ann’s here! Ann’s here!” went around the room and the crowd’s energy went up.

“Honestly, when I walked in with them, I felt I was walking in with rock stars,” Walkup said. “It was just like a pathway cleared, especially for Ann. People just adored her.”

An exhibition of the photography, book art, and graphic design of Rosener, who passed away in 2012, will be showcased in the F.W. Olin Library Heller Rare Book Room from Oct. 20 to Dec. 13. The exhibition contains work provided to the show by Rosener’s friends, who decided to put the show together to honor their friend — Rosener had requested that no type of memorial service take place after her death.

Close friends of Rosener lent photos, posters and various works by the artist to the exhibit.

“She was considered amongst her friends and colleagues to be an important woman in this field,” said Janice Braun, Mills associate library director and special collections librarian, “and they believe that she is not as well known as they think she should be.”

Rosener was known for making herself seen in the male-dominated worlds of journalism of art. Despite the challenges of being a female in these realms, Rosener thrived as a photojournalist for Time Magazine, and a graphic designer.

Some of Rosener’s best known works are her photographs depicting the roles of women during World War II. From 1964 to 1988 Rosener designed exhibition catalogues. In 1977 she founded her press Occasional Works. She edited and printed limited editions of poetry and other writers.

On Oct. 20, the Olin Library held an opening reception in the Heller Rare Book Room for the exhibition. About 45 people who personally knew Rosener were in attendance. Peter Stansky, professor of history at Stanford, spoke about Rosener, as did other friends. Braun described the reception as “informal but quite lovely.”

The exhibition was originally going to be hosted on the Stanford campus because of Rosener’s career as a professor there. However, the scale of the Stanford library, which has a massive display area, didn’t fit the show, according to Walkup. They did not want to “blow up Ann’s work” to fit the display area, Walkup said.

“It seemed completely antithetical to who Ann was. People didn’t want to try to turn her into something after her death that she hadn’t been in life,” Walkup said.

The Heller Room at Mills offers the right scale and place for the exhibition: Mills is an women’s college with a unique book arts program.

“It’s a good fit for the library, it’s a good fit for the institution, and a good fit for the students,” Walkup said. “I think she is a role model for students these days who have to be very agile if they want to pursue non-mainstream careers.”

Kenly Bicht, a librarian’s assistant, agreed. “I think it’s really inspiring showcasing a woman who was successful in a male dominant field,” said

The exhibition will remain in the library until December 13 during regular library hours. 

(Photo by Emily Mibach)
(Photo by Emily Mibach)