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Posted May 17, 2001
Knowing that women artists in all fields tend to suffer from a lack of public exposure, I took a look at this volume hoping to find some good work that I had not seen before. My hopes were rewarded when all six photographers proved to be talented, interesting, and stylistically different from each other . . . and four of them were new to me. With the two artists I knew before, the biographical essays added to my knowledge, making every aspect of the book a pleasant surprise. The book is organized around the concept that 'cameras do copy which is front of the lens . . . [but these images are also] creations of the artist's intention and unconscious mind.' The essays are especially rewarding for their balance in explaining the artists' family lives, their relationships with the men in their lives, how they started into photography, their technique, and descriptions of their aesthetic values. Leslie Sills is pleasantly succinct: Imogen Cunningham: 'liked to examine life closely' and focused on 'shapes, textures, patterns' in nature. She also captured the 'essence' of people. Dorothea Lange: The camera was an 'activist tool' which 'revealed the sufering of thousands and motivated others to help' during the Depression. Lola Alvarez Bravo: Captured the real 'Mexico after the Mexican Revolution' occurred there. Carrie Mae Weems: Showed the 'complexities of being human' especially in 'squelching stereotypes' and 'honoring African-American culture.' Elsa Dorfman: 'Celebrates humanity' with her oversized camera that captures people to look more naturally like themselves than photographs normally do. Cindy Sherman: Sees the camera as an 'instrument to copy her constructed scenes' which are 'puzzles that challenge her audience.' It has not been easy to be a woman photographer and these women succeeded because they persevered, as well as because they were so talented. Their stories are as inspiring as any I have read, and also tell an interesting tale of how your work can help you express your inner self. Here are my favorite images from the book: Imogen Cunningham: Magnolia Blossom, 1925; My Father at 90, 1936; and Morris Graves, Painter, 1950. Dorothea Lange: Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 (Series of 3). There is a wonderful description of how this series was shot on a day when Ms. Lange was exhausted and had driven past the migrant labor camp in the rain before deciding intuitively to turn back and try her luck. Lola Alvarez Bravo: Por culpas ajenas, c. 1945; Elsueno de los pobres 2, 1943; and The Two Fridas, c. 1944. Carrie Mae Weems: Mom at Work, 1978-1984; and Untitled (Letter Holder), 1988-89. Her work also included long interviews with her family. Elsa Dorfman: Robbie and the Dinosaur Femur, 1970; and Terri Terralouge and Aileen Graham, 1989. Cindy Sherman: Untitled #224, 1990. Given that these styles are so different and so vivid, I encourage you to use this book to inspire you to create some art. It doesn't have to be photography. Whether you like to sketch, sculpt, paint, or make colored soap bubbles, give yourself the chance to live freer and take a little time to express yourself. You'll feel so much better, and the rest of us will be enriched by your gift. Express yourself . . . to find yourself! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent SolutionWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.