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Casino Barrière, Deauville, France, 1987.

Through the Looking Glass: 4 Decades In the Ladies’ Room

For almost 40 years, photographer Maxi Cohen has been traveling the world, documenting the goings-on in one of the most vibrant, communal, and uniquely female spaces: the public women’s restroom.

AS I GREW UP, bathrooms were my favorite hiding place and the one sanctuary of solitude. In the ladies’ room, I was lecturing myself into some courageous act, rehearsing how to be spontaneous, or just disappearing from visibility ...
Ciudad de Samba, Rio de Janeiro, 2008.
Keith Haring at Area, New York City, 1985.
Sexuality Conference, Nokia Theater, New York City, 2009.
Brazil Foundation Gala at the New York Public Library, New York City, 2011.
East Side Airlines Terminal, New York City, 1981.
Golden Eagle Spa, New Jersey, 1982.
In 1978, I was at the Miami Film Festival with my first feature documentary, Joe and Maxi, a film about my relationship with my father. To escape a boring awards dinner in a hotel ballroom, I retreated to the ladies’ room.
Sveti Jakov (Saint James Church), Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2002.
John Golden Theatre, New York City, 1981.
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, Cannes Film Festival, France, 2013.
Cake Shop, Lower East Side, New York City, 2011.
Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles, 2000.
Odeon, New York City, 1981.
Enchanted by the octogenarians adjusting their corsets and false eyelashes, I photographed the camaraderie of their tribal dance. Thus began my photographing in ladies’ rooms, from Australia to Zambia, Bombay to Bosnia, Rio to Tel Aviv.
Black and Blue Ball, New York City, 2002.
House of Blues, Los Angeles, 1996.
Beverly Hills Hot Springs, Los Angeles, 1991.
Step Right disco, Livingstone, Zambia, 2003.
Konover Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida, 1978.
Area, New York City, 1986.
I began to wonder: what if the world knew about the secrets and trauma that women need to hide? What if they heard about the challenges that women face, but no one will listen to? For many women, a bathroom is their one refuge.
New York State Thruway, 1987.

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