Maria Popova, Women in Trees

(Maria Popova?) Oak-hopping in New Orleans, September 2020. (Photograph: Milène Lichtwarck.)

… about two books, Women in Trees, More Women in Trees, by Jochen Rains… a rare photograph of herself climbing through an oak tree… the subject of the books is a collection of photographs of women in trees… they are vintage and come from a time when it might have seemed unladylike to appear in trees… climbing trees is how so many children gain freedom from a world that is increasingly straightjacketing them… a freeing and adventurous thing to do in the confines of societal expectations, their neighborhoods, their schools… MP treats the act as a feminist gesture full of symbolism… from climbing trees to climbing corporate ladders is but the distance of a generation or two…

… on to Feedbin…

… Jonathan Blaustein wrote about his trip to Chicago this morning… i learn about Weedmaps.com, for the weed dispensary near you… i look up what might be near me and find that it’s all medical marijuana in NY… weed was recently legalized for recreational use too, but i imagine the state is still working out the regulations and how to enforce them…

… overall, JB reported on numerous pizza restaurants which seemed to be the only food they ate while in Chicago… i mean, who eats pizza all weekend long and doesn’t gain a few pounds doing it?… not me… not at this point in my life… i try to eat healthier than that…

… i review the work of Leonardo Magrelli, published on Aint-Bad, and think, ok, but not compelling… all black and white, city environment…

… i look over, read, Proud, Provocative Portraits That Celebrate Feminine Authenticity… a woman photographer and stylist pursuing a project called Girls… an area of interest as anyone reading this blog will know… yes, interested because of primal programming, but also interested in the subject of how women are presented in photoland… i am especially interested in cases where women photograph women in ways that will, whether intended or not, provoke the male gaze… this set of photographs provokes the male gaze and seems intended to…

Albertine Photography Guen Fiore, styling Rubina Vita Marchiori

 A new series by photographer Guen Fiore and stylist Rubina Vita Marchiori celebrates the fearless authenticity of Gen-Z women1

… the article tells us the women are photographed in their own homes (a safe environment)… the broad message, i will present myself as sexy if i want to, i am in control of that… a legitimate question to ask, does this promote women as much beyond being sex objects?… my answer, i am not sure… apparently there are photo sessions with each woman, that, presumably, lead to multiple images… are they all laced with sensuality?, showing the women in states of partial undress?… are they presented in any other way?… the artist’s instagram account suggests otherwise…

… i look at some of the comments on one post… that the women are “hot” is appreciated… the photographer has 34.5k followers… did they build that following with these images?… yes, almost all the images are attractive young women displaying their bodies in sensual, sexual ways… the following has been built on the fact that “sex sells,”…

… it think what bothers me is not that the women are presenting themselves sensually, sexually, but that it is a celebration of “fearless authenticity of Gen-Z women… only if women are to be defined by their sexuality… so the project tries to be high minded, but isn’t at all…


  1. Bruno, Gilda, Proud, Provocative Portraits That Celebrate Feminine Authenticity [return]

First Thoughts

… i am up at 3:30 AM… the effects of the daylight savings change… it will settle out, but i again ask why do we do this to ourselves?… an article on whether DST saves energy is inconclusive… it saves electricity consumed for lights, but may increase electricity and other fuels consumed to heat and cool… is it worth the disruption of sleep cycles?… can’t we find another way to adjust ourselves?… like start work an hour earlier and stop an hour earlier?… don’t most of us work 24/7 anyway?… aren’t more of us working from home now?…

… i read an article that suggests 45 is the odds-on favorite to win the presidency in 2024… dear god how is it possible?… bookmakers, please check your calculations again… i really don’t know what i will do if that happens…

… are we really being pushed to authoritarianism because it is more efficient?… were the Middle Ages really efficient for humankind?…

… an article discussing Texas law SB8… something about judicial immunity from law suits hampering the clear cut argument that the vigilante provisions of the law are a dangerous precedent that has the potential to undermine constitutional rights in a variety of ways… something about enjoining their clerks from working on enforcement of the law rather than judges… i didn’t completely understand…

… all of this on top of not feeling well… kind of tired… maybe it’s alcohol, though i don’t believe i overindulged last night… it does seem to sap me… just doesn’t agree with my system anymore?…

… started watching Rake, an Australian series featuring a rakish lawyer surrounded by a complex of beautiful, smart and accomplished women who frequently bare their breasts (along with the men in the show, but a man’s bare breast is way less interesting than a woman’s to me)…

… if i am honest, i am in it for the beautiful women characters who bare their breasts first, the story telling second… did i mention that the women characters are also smart and accomplished?…

… the story lines are interesting, the main characters all have redeeming virtues to balance their flaws, and there is a gamut of reasonably well rendered human complexity offered up… but denying i am powerfully attracted by the titillation is the same as saying one buys Playboy for the articles (does anyone still say that? Does Playboy still exist in any meaningful way?)… yes, there may be good articles, but really, it’s the tits and ass that matters…

… i come up against this uncomfortable truth over and over and over again… to the point where i throw up my hands in frustration at what to do… i know that society’s continued emphasis on women’s bodies is a mess of objectification that does women general harm in their efforts to be taken seriously as smart and accomplished individuals… but there is this primal thing… i am hardwired to be sexually attracted to women i think are beautiful… the mechanics of it are different for the two sexes (and i will leave aside for the moment all the gender fluid nuances that exist), but the bottom line is primal attraction is primal and it is not possible to eradicate it from my being…

… i can try not to be drawn into programming and imagery that gets my libido going, but why?… i enjoy having my libido engaged… it feels good… as long as it involves adults portrayed consensually and in consensual engagement, and as long as i am able to separate fantasy from reality, i set myself free to be titillated without guilt…

… i am coming to the conclusion that it is best not to try to ban libidinous reactions from my mind (not that i have ever really tried)… nor do i think i should be embarrassed by it (which i sometimes am)… instead, i need to acknowledge to myself how powerful they are, take note of when and how they are activated, then let them move through like clouds in the sky, enjoyed simply for what they are…

… what matters to me is how i treat women (all human beings really, but women are the focus here)… acknowledging my initial primal reaction (to myself) and then letting it pass through is, as far as i can see, my best strategy for moving on to a more respectful and satisfying relationship with the women i share the planet with…

Photobooks by Women

… one of my great interests, women and photography… women as subject(object?), women as photographers, women as critics of photography, women as curators of photography, and on and on…

this article in AnOther is a long list of women who have made important photobooks… well worth a gander if at all interested in photography and women photographers who have blazed trails…

Daily Feed

Frieze Festival, London, via AnOther

… the artists i like…

Deborah Roberts

Deborah Roberts ‘Laying my burdens down’, 2021 Mixed media collage on canvas 177.8 x 177.8cm(70 x 70in). Copyright Deborah Roberts. Photo by Paul Bardargjy.

… the artist is African American, well known in this country… her work depicts:

 Black children, beautifully composed, in collage form, from found imagery and hand-painted details. Each one features an array of skin tones, hairstyles, facial features and clothing in a powerful exploration of what the gallery terms “the challenges encountered by Black children as they respond to social constructs perpetuated by the white gaze and western visual culture”.1

… i like the image above… i like its photo collage quality, i like its minimalism… i find it pleasing to look at, mildly challenging… the direct gaze of the subject… the averted gaze also… it is art with a social purpose… it is the white patriarchy absorbing the critique in a way deemed acceptable…

Do Ho Suh

Do Ho Suh, Doorknobs on Backplates: Providence Home and New York Homes, 2021

… i like the whimsy…

Mary Beth Edelson

Mary Beth Edelson

… American feminist art pioneer, nudes on the beach striking Egyptian statuary poses… she died this past April… i am interested in women in photography, especially nudes where i find very interesting crosscurrents of the male gaze, female gaze, feminist statements…

Daily Feed

Jackie Nickerson

Woman with floweres and dinosaurs III, 2020Photography by Jackie Nickerson

Photography by Jackie Nickerson

… as i look at the images i try to decide between gimmick and serious art work… i like the images, like the concept, but am i being seduced by something which really only has surface attraction?… she is described as a “world-class” photographer… she has earned her reputation in the fashion industry… interesting that these art/fashion photographs are about identity through, essentially, hats…

… the photography is from Salvage, her latest photobook… it explores the relationship between people and consumption in formal portraits… but what exactly does it say about that?… that we throw away some beautiful things that make cool face and head props in a photo project?…

… i look at the images… first take, cool… second take, what’s the message?… should we be forced to wear the wages of our sins?…

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.1

… as i think the words “wages of our sin” onto the computer screen, i look up the reference… a bible passage… and so, my thoughts about the photographs move to the objects plastered onto the heads of the models as some kind of cancerous growth… but not grotesque… somewhat disturbing but also beautiful… cleaned up, sanitized, cancerous growth…

… the pictures are compelling… would be easy to hang on the wall of ones living room… but… is the message lost in the glamour of the photography and art direction?…

Ann Barngrover, Taking Flight

… the author discusses the work of another author… Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights… i have, but have not yet read, H is for Hawk… Vesper Flights is a collection of essays… as i read the descriptions of the books, i am thinking they would make good Christmas gifts for my sister…

… i learn about the German concept of wunderkammer, “cabinet of wonders.”…

Originally depicting rooms rather than pieces of furniture, wunderkammers were most popular in Victorian times as enclosed spaces that held collections of rare or unexpected finds. Instead of functioning as museums, “It was expected that people should pick up and handle the objects in these cases; feel their textures, their weights, their particular strangenesses.” You could touch and hold mollusk shells and chinaware, pressed feathers and butterfly wings, beaded stones and the fragile candelabras of fish bones, things both natural and forged. “Nothing was kept behind glass,” Macdonald notes.2

… as i read about the concept of wunderkammer… i think, i have a wunderkammer… my studio is a wonderkammer in a way… i have lots of natural objects i have collected… a bag of such objects from Block Island, sitting on my bed right now… a windowsill full of them… i think, this could be an art project… a photo project…

… the author moves on to talk about a college course on Star Wars that she and her colleague designed and gave… she talks about the feminism in Star Wars… she talks about the male know-it-alls who claim exclusive dominion over Star Wars interpretation…

Indeed, wondering comes at a price. As Macdonald reminds us, “Increasingly, knowing your surroundings, recognising the species of animals and plants around you, means opening yourself to constant grief.” This is the sobering reversal of slowing down and rejoicing in complexity and nuance, beauty and depth. The more you slow down, the more you will find. The more you find, the more you will connect. The more you connect, the more you will love. The more you love, the more you will lose—maybe not today, but one day, one day soon.3

… a good essay… worth reading…

Reese Herrington, “Girl Talk”

Girl Talk, Photography by Reese Herrington

Girl Talk, Photography by Reese Herrington

… a young woman photographer photographs the women around her in appreciative, sensual and sexual ways… in the bedroom, the bathroom, the boudoir… if its women photographing women, is it objectification?… their Instagram site is more balanced…


  1. Bible, Romans 6:23, New International Version [return]
  2. Barngrover, Ann, Taking Flight: https://www.guernicamag.com/taking-flight/ [return]
  3. Ibid [return]

Photographer: Kate Sweeny

Kate Sweeny

… nice photographs of young women, clothed and unclothed… an example of nude photography with women behind and in front of the camera… the artist tells us that the photographs are not about the objectification of women, but rather, about the celebration of women’s bodies as an art form in and of themselves and as natural presences in the world… which i believe… the photographs are, however, easy to view in a sexualized and objectified way, especially when they deploy tropes like wet fabric on the body as in the above image… i think we suffer from a lot of confusion about sex and sexuality, particularly in American Society, because there is a strong tendency to repress sexuality, and because the Patriarchy is so alive and well, it makes any young woman an object of sexual desire and any photograph of said young woman sexualized, when patriarchal eyes that are looking… i don’t see this as a reason not to make and display them… i do see a need to be honest about the variety of ways in which content can be perceived…

 Amia Srinivasan, The Right to Sex

… a book about the politics of sex?… from a philosopher no less… sounds interesting… might want to get…

Holy

By Donna Ferrato, reviewed by Jonathan Blaustein

… for the most part, i agree with Jonathan Blaustein, that Holy is a powerful book, though my personal reaction to it is that it starts to fall apart a bit in narrative intent at the end, in the “Other” section… i proudly own a copy though… it’s overall, fabulous… i commented on the post, expressing these sentiments…

Judy Chicago

… feminist artist trail blazer…

… a really interesting artist and article about her written by Miss Rosen, another of my favorite reviewers of photographic art and art in general…

I never thought I would live this long,” says Chicago, who is now 82. “Understanding mortality at such an early age gave me an impetus to work. One of the reasons I produced so much work is that I never knew how much time I would have. The other reason is that every time I lost everything – like when The Dinner Party became the piece that nobody wanted to show, or when Congress debated it, or when I had to start all over again – I didn’t know what to do so I went back to my studio and made making art my reward.”1

… this quote inspires me… make the work, something will come of it… it’s the making of the work that is the important act… making it for its own sake, wherever the creative imperative leads you… i suppose this is what i want to do… make the work i am compelled to make, and let the rest take care of itself or not… this blog is part of that… my daily photo walks is part of that… this act of living and recording it is part of that…

… I will keep forging ahead…

03 Afternoons, Jenna Westra

… i ordered this book prior to leaving on vacation, forgot that i had, was pleasantly surprised to see it in the mail pile when i returned…

… for some time now i have been interested in the subject of women in photography, as subject/object, as photographer, as critic… i became especially interested in the “male gaze” vs the “female gaze,” as i was noticing increasing numbers of women photographers photographing other women nude… i often found the nude images made by women as “male gaze” provocative as those made by men, and wondered how that squared with the feminist idea that it is not helpful that women are continually objectified as sexual objects, not to be taken seriously as intelligent accomplished beings in their own right…

… i ordered this book because it is entirely about the female body, singularly or with other female bodies, with some full or partial nudity, but as often dressed and posed in ways that allow an appreciation of youthful feminine form without being open to an overly sexual read…

… from the opening essay by Orit Gat…

Many of the photographs feature degrees of nudity. Once this book, these photographs, are out in the world, the tender consciousness of being seen between the models and the artist or the cameral shifts. Whatever eyes rest on them, though, will recognize different things in their freedom. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to talk about a female gaze without it reading like a translation of the terminology of the male gaze. The comfort nude women feel around one another will read as familiar to many, and like a secret society to others. The photos do not explore the difference per se, but they also do not generate tension around the history of nude representation. Instead, there is tenderness.1

… it’s a deep subject that has brought lots of feminist literature into my library, Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex, for example…

… the biggest thing i have learned is that consent, then intent, matter… the models should always have agency in both agreeing to be photographed, how they are photographed and how the photographs are to be used after being made… intent also matters… and even when intent serves a good purpose, is not objectification of subject, the image can always be appropriated as such when it engages the male gaze, which often is the case…


  1. Gat, Orit. Forward to Afternoons, Westra, Jenna. Published by Hassla, 2020. [return]

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 09, Sylvia Plath

… the more i read, the more i realize that Bell Jar is a feminist work, carefully outlining the options available to women in the day and setting the heroine up to choose among unappealing alternatives… we’ve had the fatherly doctor-to-be proposing marriage already… it seems to be a fantasy that Esther doesn’t want… now we are following her and Hilda to work… Hilda, who is busy being a store mannequin and looking at herself in every window that bounces back her reflection… Hilda seems to have settled on the fantasy she wants…

… a dramatic twist, a blind date, Marco, attempts to rape Esther… her last night in the city… it prepares to spit her out…

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 07, Sylvia Plath

… about Constantine taking her to lunch and her own inadequacies, which are legion… this chapter all about what nice girls do and don’t do, while she decides not to be a nice girl anymore… this chapter is about the place of women in the lives of men and our heroine does not like it… to wit…

And I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered on a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard’s kitchen mat.1

… sadly, she never has sex with Constantine… if SP lived in the current time, there would have been sex… and our heroine would not have been a virgin either…


  1. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) (p. 65). Harper. Kindle Edition. [return]

04 Barbara Krueger

… it seems appropriate to follow up the last post with something on feminist artist Barbara Krueger…

Wielding the power of art, Kruger went on to address conversations around feminism, consumerism and individualism, challenging how we think and behave. She has never been afraid to push boundaries.1

06 What’s in a name?

… interesting article on the problem with naming women artists, who’s histories are all too often tied up with men more famous then they during their lifetimes… and then there are the ways that the patriarchy patronizes women when it names them…

In 2017, French novelist Marie Darrieussecq’s succinct biography of early 20th-century German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, Being Here Is Everything, was published in English. In it, Darrieussecq calls her subject Paula, while the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who was her friend, is called Rilke. When asked about this disparity in The Paris Review, Darrieussecq was blunt, “It’s the truth about men and women. It still is. It’s hard to have a name when you’re a woman.”1

07 Personal and Political by Elin Spring

_“The personal is political” was the slogan of second wave feminism. In this deftly interwoven exhibit, curator Karen Haas features photographers working 1965-1985 from Canada to Latin America in a demonstration of how women’s personal lives were inextricably linked to cultural and political inequalities. The provocations and inspirations of the Civil and Equal Rights movements share many qualities with our current #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements. “Personal and Political” sheds light on a vibrant historical narrative, offering a perspective that brings our own times into sharper focus.1

this article reviews an exhibit at The Museum of Fine Art, Boston, featuring women photographers active during the years 1965-1985… i would definitely go see the exhibition if i were in Boston, even if women in photography weren’t my personal rabbit hole… some great images in the show, here are a couple…

“Patti Smith, New Orleans” Annie Leibovitz (American, born in 1949) 1978. Photograph, chromogenic print Gift of Jan Colombi and Jay Reeg Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“Bathroom Surveillance, or Vanity Eye” Martha Rosler (American, born in 1943) 1966–1972. Photograph, inkjet print (photomontage)

Museum purchase with funds donated by Scott Offen Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

04 Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency

Dr. Marcus Bunyan reviews this exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago

… i saw a review of the show a while back, made me wish i could afford to get to Chicago…

This is a harrowing exhibition. In reality, in the 21st century, it shouldn’t be, for the problems that it investigates – the psychological, physical, and emotional realities people encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility; the lack of open acknowledgement of pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility – should not longer exist. Women’s bodies are not vehicles for reproduction as see through a patriarchal, capitalist lens.1

_“I’m trying to visualise a history of misogyny so we don’t forget what’s in the past and don’t get too comfortable in the present; so we take a look at things that sometimes we don’t want to – in a visual way that doesn’t make you just turn the page but makes you engage somehow and think a little bit.”2

Of Sports, Asian Women, and Volleyball

… last article to review today, a pretty rich morning… appealing to my interest in the state of womanhood, this documentary on Nichibo Kaizuka, a women’s volleyball team which rose to fame and cultural icon status because of their winning ways… they were dubbed the “Oriental Witches”… there is so much to unpack in that moniker alone… titled The Witches of the Orient, it is on view at Doc Fortnight, which requires an expensive MoMA membership to view, but if you are already a member, or maybe you should become a member, most of the fee is tax deductible…

Reading about Pixy Liao

… i read about Pixy Liao’s staged photographic work calling into question the patriarchy and its notion of the place of women… it has been getting a lot of attention… there is currently an exhibit at Fotografiska in New York City… one of her images:

After Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, Experimental Relationship series, 2019, © Pixy Liao1

… the incorporation of this work into the gallery and museum art system is the beginning of its absorption into the patriarchy and neutralization of its message as noted by Abigail Solomon Godeau in quoting Walter Benjamin in Photography at the Dock:

We are faced with the fact… that the bourgeois apparatus of production and publication can assimilate astonishing quantities of revolutionary themes, indeed, can propagate them without calling its own existence, and the existence of the class that owns it, seriously into question2

… this has a tendency to neuter the message… it is interesting as Asian art too, given the Atlanta shootings, it clearly is in opposition to the myth that woman, particularly Asian woman, is/should be passive/submissive…

… Godeau, in discussing the work of Connie Hatch, notes that her work is not easily commodified, existing primarily as performative slide shows, which makes the neutering of its message difficult… Godeau notes:

To refuse to supply the apparatus, as Benjamin and Brecht enjoined, may in fact be possible only by affirming one’s place in the peripheral spaces outside the emporium of high culture.3


  1. https://www.fotografiska.com/nyc/exhibition/your-gaze-belongs-to-me/ [return]
  2. Walter Benjamin, The Author as Producer, in Reflections, ed. Peter Demetz (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanavich 1978), 228 [return]
  3. Abigail Solomon Godeau, Photography at the Dock, University of Minnesota Press, 1991, p 193 [return]