Controversial 20th Century Female Photographers: Background information when reading Feast Your Eyes

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Feast Your Eyes

by Myla Goldberg

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg X
Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 336 pages

    Feb 2020, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Controversial 20th Century Female Photographers

This article relates to Feast Your Eyes

Print Review

Lillian Preston, the photographer at the heart of Feast Your Eyes, is fictional, but there are a number of controversial 20th century female photographers on whom she could be based, including Diane Arbus (1923-1971), Irina Ionesco (b.1930) and Sally Mann (b.1951).

Diane ArbusBorn Diane Nemerov, 18-year-old Diane Arbus received her first camera from her husband Allan shortly after their marriage. Together they opened a photography studio after WWII and sold their photos to magazines such as Vogue, but neither really enjoyed the work. Arbus eventually turned her attention to less structured, more spontaneous photography, roaming the streets of New York City with her camera. Esquire published her first photo essay in 1960, after which she gained notoriety, and she subsequently received two Guggenheim fellowships to continue her work. She ultimately became known for her photos of marginalized people – giants, dwarfs, those with disabilities or otherwise living on the outskirts of society. Her work was widely praised but some criticized it as exploitive. Arbus committed suicide in 1971 at age 48.

Irina IonescoIrina Ionesco is a French photographer with a murky past. According to Sunday Salon, "What is known for certain is that in the early 1970s Irina Ionesco appeared unexpectedly in the Parisian art photography community with a collection of strange and erotic black and white photographs. The photographs (some of which were self-portraits) were primarily portraits of women partially-dressed in elaborate costumes, surrounded by unusual or bizarre props. While some of the portraits are fairly straightforward, many include elements that are distinctly fetishistic. In those early photographs, the women are often looking toward the camera in a disinterested way — as if they are unimpressed and unconcerned by the viewer's attention." Like Goldberg's protagonist, Ionesco is best known for a photographic series that featured her young daughter, Eva. In the pictures Eva is posed much like Irina's other subjects: nude and in erotic postures, and the photos are still considered controversial. Eva, now a successful actress, director, and screenwriter, has sued her mother three times to date for emotional distress.

Sally MannSally Mann's career was inspired by her father's love of photography. Her first professional job as a photographer was for Washington and Lee University, which hired her to record the construction of their law building. The pictures were so well done that they were featured in her first exhibition and were also a part of her first photography book, Second Sight (1984). Although her speciality, according to some, is photographing landscapes that symbolize death and decay, she became famous for a series of pictures published in 1992 that featured her three children naked. Many found them beautiful and artistic, while other considered them child pornography. Mann has published numerous photography books, and has been the subject of two films – Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann (1994) and What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann (2007).

Filed under Music and the Arts

Article by Kim Kovacs

This "beyond the book article" relates to Feast Your Eyes. It originally ran in May 2019 and has been updated for the February 2020 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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