Sept. 8, 2023—September 2024

Through her portrait project, Her Helm, photographer Kristin Rutkowski sought to challenge gendered stereotypes of who commands the wheel aboard vessels that ply the Chesapeake Bay. As she traveled the region to photograph more than 50 women who make their own way on the water, Rutkowski discovered a network of recreational power boaters and sailors, charter boat and tug captains, maritime and environmental educators, and delivery boat and ferry operators, who experienced unique obstacles and challenges as they built their confidence and capability on the water. 

Captured in their element along the docks and waterways or at the helm of their vessels, these women are ennobled and empowered through Rutkowski’s lens. Their voices and accomplishments are highlighted in short paragraphs accompanying each portrait, compiled by the photographer through informal interviews during each portrait session. CBMM’s parallel oral history project will record life history interviews with more than a dozen of the women featured in Her Helm

While the full collection of Rutkowski’s Her Helm portraits is featured in a forthcoming book, a selection will be exhibited in the Van Lennep Auditorium, in the Changing Exhibitions building. CBMM will host an artist’s talk on Sept. 14 and additional programming featuring the “Her Helm” captains during the exhibition’s run.