The Black Female Body: A Photographic History / Edition 1

The Black Female Body: A Photographic History / Edition 1

by Deborah Willis, Carla Williams
     
 

ISBN-10: 1566399289

ISBN-13: 9781566399289

Pub. Date: 02/28/2002

Publisher: Temple University Press

Searching for photographic images of black women, Deborah Willis and Carla Williams were startled to find them by the hundreds. In long-forgotten books, in art museums, in European and US archives and private collections, a hidden history of representation awaited discovery. The Black Female Body offers a stunning array of familiar and many virtually unknown…  See more details below

Overview

Searching for photographic images of black women, Deborah Willis and Carla Williams were startled to find them by the hundreds. In long-forgotten books, in art museums, in European and US archives and private collections, a hidden history of representation awaited discovery. The Black Female Body offers a stunning array of familiar and many virtually unknown photographs. Willis and Williams show how photographs reflected Western culture's fascination with black women's bodies, reinforcing beliefs about racial differences and hierarchies. The authors also show how the powerful images created by twentieth-century photographers increasingly challenged these false beliefs.

In the nineteenth-century, black women were rarely subjects for artistic studies but posed before the camera again and again as objects of social-scientific investigation, as exotic representatives of faraway lands. Documenting their visits to Africa, renowned European and American photographers such as Ernest Benecke, Claude-Joseph Desire Charnay, and Pierre Tremaux constructed the kinds of images that would later become associated with National Geographic magazine, presenting (partially) unclothed "natives" in order to educate Western viewers about other peoples and cultures. In startling images women of African descent, stripped of their customary clothing as well as their identity, were displayed for the armchair anthropologist or prurient viewer.

Willis and Williams relate these social-science photographs and the blatantly pornographic images of this era to those of black women as domestics and nursemaids for white children. Through the camera lens, real women embodied Jezebel or Mammy, cultural myths that made black women perpetually available to serve white society.

Throughout the book, in over 200 photographs, the authors offer counterpoints to these exploitive images. Here are nineteenth-century portraits of well dressed and beautifully coifed Creoles and artistic studies of dignified black women. Covering the entire history of the medium, the authors discuss previously unanalyzed images of black women made by celebrated photographers including Nadar, Eugene Atget, Gertrude Kasebier, Walker Evans, and Edward Weston. Here are Harlem Renaissance-era photographs of entertainer Josephine Baker and writer Zora Neale Hurston, black women celebrated as contributors to a vibrant culture. Here too are images by James VanDerZee, Carl Van Vechten, and Chester Higgins, Jr., that celebrate the beauty of black women. Documenting the long struggle for black civil rights and equal opportunity, the authors draw on politically charged images by noted photographers Lewis Hine, Gordon Parks, and Roshini Kempadoo.

The book also features contemporary masters such as Renee Cox, Lorna Simpson, Lorraine O'Grady, Joy Gregory, and Catherine Opie, whose provocative work speaks to the multiple dimensions of black women's experiences and desires. In particular, Willis and Williams direct our attention to the artists who photograph black women asserting their subjectivity, reclaiming their bodies, and rejecting the false images of the past.

The Black Female Body asks us to see familiar images in a new light and showcases the work of artists who are creating a new visual legacy. This remarkable book makes a necessary contribution to photographic and cultural history as well as an exceptional gift book and keepsake.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781566399289
Publisher:
Temple University Press
Publication date:
02/28/2002
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
9.32(w) x 12.24(h) x 1.08(d)

Table of Contents

Prefaceix
Acknowledgmentsxi
Introduction1
Part 1Colonial Conquest7
LaVenus Noire8
Ethnography, Photography, and the Grand Tour10
The Body at Labor35
World's Fairs and Expositions59
The National Geographic Aesthetic79
Part 2The Cultural Body83
The Noble Body84
The Conscious Body89
The Artist's Model91
Bawdy Bodies98
The Lesbian Body114
The Body at Labor, Revisited117
Part 3The Body Beautiful139
The New Negro in Photography140
Perception of Beauty153
The Construction of Beauty169
Autobiography of the Body189
Conclusion: Reclaiming Bodies and Images197
Notes199
References211
Index219

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