Regarding Emma

Overview

For more than fifteen years, Melissa Ann Pinney has been making photographs of girls and women, from infancy to old age, to portray how feminine identity is constructed, taught, and communicated. Her work depicts not only the rites of American womanhood—a prom, a wedding, a baby shower, a tea party—but the informal passages of girlhood: combing a doll's hair, doing laundry with a mother, smoking a cigarette at a state fair. With each view, we gain a greater understanding of the connections between mother and ...

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Overview

For more than fifteen years, Melissa Ann Pinney has been making photographs of girls and women, from infancy to old age, to portray how feminine identity is constructed, taught, and communicated. Her work depicts not only the rites of American womanhood—a prom, a wedding, a baby shower, a tea party—but the informal passages of girlhood: combing a doll's hair, doing laundry with a mother, smoking a cigarette at a state fair. With each view, we gain a greater understanding of the connections between mother and daughter, and by extension the larger world of family, friends, and society.

Pinney's approach to interpreting girlhood became more complicated and complex when her daughter, Emma, was born eight years ago. Emma's childhood evoked in Pinney her own girlhood and gave her work new meaning and purpose. Ultimately, Regarding Emma shares with all of us the incremental and the ritualistic changes that take place in a woman's life over time. Her photographs are artistic and social documents that reveal the subtle and bold aspects of feminine identity—documents whose reach will extend well beyond the walls of America's leading galleries and museums into the hearts and homes of everyday Americans.

"Melissa Ann Pinney is making powerful art. In matters of light, color, and composition she is flawless. But these are not simply constructions of elements. These photographs bear witness to the speed at which the little girl becomes the old woman, to the fleeting, breathless beauty of childhood, to life itself, which leaves us stunned in its wake."—Ann Patchett, from the Foreword

"Melissa Ann Pinney provides a compelling portrait of American girls as they make their way from infancy to adulthood. Using her daughter's childhood as a point of departure, she traces the complex terrain of adolescence and budding femininity. The results are photographs marked by empathy and grace."—Sylvia Wolf, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

"These photographs by Melissa Ann Pinney impart a sense of the special and sacred everyday rituals we take for granted. She appreciates at once the transient nature of what she finds and its gravity. Her pictures describe so well the wonder, and beauty, and centrality of the things we know best and the people we see often."—Sandra S. Phillips, Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

"Melissa Ann Pinney's record of life with her daughter, Emma, adds a new and touching chapter to our knowledge of the lives of women and girls."—Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and a staff writer for The New Yorker

"Melissa Pinney's passionate, painstaking investigation of the stages of women's lives is impressive for its rigor and courage. Her themes aren't imposed on the pictures or on the women, men, and children who people them; instead, they arise from her attentive study of particularities— of the ways human lives are etched on the surfaces of faces and the positions of bodies in real spaces and places, mundane but radiant. When she turns from the lives of others to her own life, the shift is seamless but the volume swells, the emotions grow more pointed and the paradoxes more painful, joyous, and direct. This is remarkable work by an artist at the height of her powers."—Peter Bacon Hales, author of William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune

“In reviewing the technically brilliant and elegantly composed photographs that make up Melissa Ann Pinney’s Regarding Emma, I was stuck by just how fluid time becomes over the arc of so many fastidious frames. . . . We can’t trust time because time cannot be trusted, because time is elastic and plays tricks. The girl is the woman and the woman is the girl. The first of anything—first moon, first clutch of flowers—is but an echo of all that has already gone before. This is the story Regarding Emma so movingly tells, as Pinney thoughtfully juxtaposes photographs of her own daughter with photographs from a series she calls ‘Feminine Identity.’ Compassionately constructed, shockingly vivid and lovingly introduced by writer Ann Patchett, this is a book that stirs the heart.”—Beth Kephart, Chicago Tribune

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Inspired by the birth of her daughter, Emma, and dedicated to her departed mother, Regarding Emma is a provocative collection of complex, allegorical images of girls and women and the mysterious world they inhabit.”
— Paul Brown

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930066144
  • Publisher: Columbia College Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 11.50 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Preface xi
The Plates 3
List of Plates 99
Acknowledgments 101
About the Author and the Essayist 105
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