Portraits of Women
In an article in the New York Times on photographer Annie Leibovitz and her work on her project “Women,” she is quoted as saying: “The imagery of women has to catch up with the imagery of men.” I love looking at photographs of women, and when someone last week posted the beautiful photo of Joni Mitchell by Michael Jean Roy I went down the internet rabbit hole and started looking at all sorts of strong and beautiful portraits. At about the same time, Rob had gotten back the painting he’d done of a fashion magazine with Tilda Swinton on the cover, and which I immediately hung on the wall of my study.
I don’t love seeing photos of myself, though at the same time, I think it’s good to keep a record of who we are as ordinary women, ordinary humans. As someone who’s been writing books for years, the whole “author photo” thing has been interesting to me. Most of us don’t hire a professional photographer to take our photo, especially those of us who publish with a small press. We don’t get our hair and makeup done before whatever kind of shoot we do. Mostly, it’s a photo that we’ve had a partner take, or one that a friend has taken. I’m interested in photos taken of people who aren’t movie stars are models, though I often like those, too.
I like the self-portraits of Vivian Maier. I like the paintings of Paula Modersohn-Becker (who I wrote about in All the God-Sized Fruit). I like the self-portraits of Alice Neel, who said, “The self, we have it like an albatross around the neck.” Let’s not forget the portrait of Michelle Obama who a little girl thought was a queen.
And maybe it’s an albatross, but maybe it’s doesn’t have to be. I’m thinking of the wonderful project, Ask, by Canadian photographer, Lisa MacIntosh, who I’ve been following for quite a while and who is just so damned cool.
I’m interested in all the reasons we take selfies. I’m interested in how women are portrayed in the news. I’m interested in ordinary women. I’m interested in those of us who like photographs of ourselves, and those who don’t. I’m interested in the truths that can be found in photographs of women, vulnerable, strong, honest, and kickass.
I want to continue thinking about these things, and to continue looking. That’s all I know right now.