Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present

Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present

by Deborah Willis
     
 

“A monumental contribution to contemporary American culture. . . . Willis has forever changed the conversation about beauty in American life.”—The New York Times
With more than two hundred arresting images, Posing Beauty recovers a world many never knew existed. Historical subjects such as Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker illuminate the past;

Overview

“A monumental contribution to contemporary American culture. . . . Willis has forever changed the conversation about beauty in American life.”—The New York Times
With more than two hundred arresting images, Posing Beauty recovers a world many never knew existed. Historical subjects such as Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker illuminate the past; Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali take us to the civil rights era; Denzel Washington, Lil' Kim, and Michelle Obama celebrate the present. Featuring the work of more than one hundred photographers, including Carl Van Vechten, Eve Arnold, Lee Friedlander, and Carrie Mae Weems, Willis's book captures not only the lives of the famous but also the barber shop, the bodybuilding contest, and prom night. African American beauty finally gets its due in this landmark work from one of our most distinguished historians.

Editorial Reviews

Jennifer Baszile
…Willis makes a monumental contribution to contemporary American culture by presenting a definitive history of black beauty…With Posing Beauty, Willis has forever changed the conversation about beauty in American life. After centuries of exclusion and segregation in which African-American beauty existed on the margins of the culture, Willis offers readers a thoughtful and nuanced consideration of the relationship of beauty and power. She invites us to marvel at the glamour and elegance contained in the photographs, and in the process instructs us on how to expand the definition of beauty within our national imagination. In the pages of Posing Beauty, readers can appreciate African-American men and women as dandies and debutantes, models and beauty queens, politicians and clubwomen across the generations. The book is a treasure, a triumph and a singular achievement that invites fresh and enduring insights with each viewing.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Willis (Reflections in Black), a MacArthur fellow and chair of New York University's photography department, curates a collection of iconic portraits and snapshots by anonymous photographers in a “history of beauty that merges gender, race, family, class.” Willis's words, a distillation of her inquiries into beauty and race, are few—the images speak for themselves. The photographs, organized thematically, reach back to the 1890s and forward to the current first family. Famous photographers share perspective with family photographers and those known only as “Unidentified Photographer.” The recognizably famous—James Baldwin, Marian Anderson, Joe Louis—appear along with those known only as “Mom and Friend,” “Two women holding magazine, ca. 1950s” or “Barber cutting man's hair outdoors, ca. 1930s.” Willis's content is groundbreaking; rarely, for example, are men this adequately represented in a work devoted to “beauty within black culture.” For Willis, this extraordinary compilation is “the culmination of my exploration of beauty within black culture and through the medium of photography.” For readers, this is a dazzling eye-opener. (Nov.)
Vanessa Bush - Booklist
“Drawing on 10 years of research and photos from archives, galleries, photographers, friends, and family, Willis reflects the broad spectrum of images of beauty over more than a century. She examines how beauty is defined, exploited, manipulated, and marketed.... An aesthetic look at black beauty by the author of Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present.”
Jennifer Baszile - The New York Times Book Review
“The book is a treasure, a triumph and a singular achievement that invites fresh and enduring insights with each viewing.”
Elizabeth Wellington - Philadelphia Inquirer
“Like a family photo album . . . it is in these pictures that an inner beauty is captured. . . . These images didn't make the cover of Life, or even Ebony, but they capture the soulfulness of everyday life.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393066968
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
10/05/2009
Pages:
280
Sales rank:
1,115,609
Product dimensions:
9.40(w) x 12.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Willis, a MacArthur, Guggenheim, and Fletcher Fellow, is the author of Reflections in Black, Posing Beauty, Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs, and the New York Times bestseller Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs. She is chair of the photography department and a University Professor at New York University.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >