24 December 2009
Book Review: Women
Author: Annie Leibovitz (photography) and Susan Sontag (essay)
Published: 2000 Pages: 250
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Women is a collection of photographs depicting the diversity of women and designed to challenge the traditional views of female beauty and advance the more contemporary ideology of woman as equal.
Women are beautiful. And I'm not using that term in the "oh isn't Britney Spears hot" kind of way. From the image of Polly Weydener, aged and wrinkled, to the image of lithe showgirls, the women featured in this collection uniquely exhibit the various characteristics of woman - and I think the characteristics of humans. This substitution of humans for women is, I think, part of the point of this book. Women are not a group separate from human; we are human, and we are as differentiated in looks, personalities, desires, ambitions, and abilities as men.
Often thought of as a subclass of humanity, women are often described in terms of their gender in a way men are not. Joe is a great race car driver; Betty is a great female race car driver. Or another example, the riddle: A man and his son were in a car accident. The man died on the way to the hospital, but the boy was rushed into surgery. The surgeon said "I can't operate on this boy. He's my son." How is this possible?
I remember hearing this sometime in high school, and it was astounding how many people could not immediately figure out the answer. It seems so glaringly obvious. But we assume surgeons are men, so the idea of the surgeon being the boy's mother does not spring to mind. Answers I heard before Mother: the boy had two gay dads and the surgeon was the boy's stepfather.
As Susan Sontag writes in the beginning essay of Women, we are still "regarding individual man as an instance of humankind and an individual woman as an instance of...women". Men represent humanity - in "language, narrative, group arrangements, and family customs". Women are secondary, a subgroup within the larger category, not representative of the whole.
Descriptions of the images would just not be adequate, so if you are interested in seeing some of the pictures, go here.
I highly recommend purchasing this book for the images, the essay, the message.
If I've missed yours, let me know!
A Striped Armchair;
Question: What other photography books would you recommend?
Challenges: Women UnBound, GLBT Challenge, Reading Resolutions, Take Another Chance,