Rating: 4 stars
I did some searching on different art books that focused mostly on women artists. I stumbled upon this one and was delighted on the topic. What a cool idea to look at this unique relationship among women from the start of photography. When I picked it up from the library, I was shocked at how massive it is. It is big and slightly intimidating. I didn't even crack it open for a week. When I did decide to tackle it, I opened it up and sighed with relief. Oh yes, this is a pictorial history! I can handle a massive, giant book that is mostly pictures! And great pictures at that.
There was a great introduction to the book that explained the history of photography while focusing on the part that women played throughout it. It wasn't until the late nineteenth century that women really became influential in the photography world....all because "advertising by the George Eastman Company invited them to use the Kodak camera to become keepers of family memories..." And it didn't stop there. Women suddenly got hooked and realized the potential that this form of media has.
When reading about each artist in this book, I was reminded of how so many of them had been educated in art schools. Yet, because they were women, they were held back from becoming artists. The book says, "Photography...would still allow women to fulfill their expected roles as family guardians because its tasks could be divided up and was less demanding than painting or sculpture." Women encouraged each other in this medium. One well known woman, Catharine Weed Barnes, "lectured and wrote widely, urging women to take the medium seriously."
And they did! You can see throughout the pictures how important they viewed each picture. They studied movement, shadows, emotions, society, and of course, the female body. "In the interwar years, however, the nude female body became a subject of much interest to women photographers....they, instead of men, could control how the female body was represented."
The book also highlights the importance of the role of the one being photographed. In the back of the book there was information on each of the photographers...and also of the women being photographed. Sometimes there were even photographs that one female photographer took of another female photographer that was also mentioned in the book. It was great to fully recognize that each picture had two women playing their roles--and that there is an important relationships going on in each picture.
The book is laid out chronologically which is great in showing how pictures have changed over time including image quality, themes, and messages. It was also interesting to see various artists' influence throughout multiple decades. The one downside to this book is that all the information about the artists is in the way back of the book so I had to constantly be flipping back and forth to find out more. My arms were tired by the end of it!
As I mentioned in my 2013 goal, I’m reading mostly women lit that focuses on women authors or complicated, strong female characters this year. Here is the list of my previous book reviews that I've done on this journey:
First: Madame Bovary
Second: Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress
Third: Patron Saint of Liars
Fourth: Bird by Bird
Fifth: Frida Kahlo