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The Black Female Body: A Photographic History 
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Product Details 
228 pages 
Temple Univ Press 
Published 2002 
From Library Journal 
Rather than making broad surveys, the current trend in photo-historical research is a more narrow approach, closely examining specific groups. Willis (Reflections in Black) and Williams (The Underground Railroad, etc.) continue on this track. They concentrate not only on images of women but exclusively at the black female form in photographs beginning in the 19th century. Willis and Williams's approach is theoretical, focusing on issues of race, gender, sexuality, and social class by looking at images of the objectified black female in a variety of representations. The book is divided into four main chapters "Colonial Conquest," "The Cultural Body," "The Body Beautiful," and "Reclaiming Bodies and Images" and includes over 200 images by important photographers, such James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, and Carrie Mae Weems, as well as by many unknowns. The book provides a fascinating view into a long-neglected and even taboo subject. Another recent text, Kathleen Thompson's The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present, is similar but focuses on inspirational imagery, and Willis's earlier work Reflections in Black offers a more comprehensive survey of black photography. Still, the current volume is highly recommended for any library interested in expanding its black history, photo history, and women's studies collections. Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA 
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.  
From the Publisher 
Recovering a photographic legacy.  
Book Description 
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 U.S. 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, showing how photographs reflected and reinforced Western culture's fascination with black women's bodies.  
In the nineteenth century, black women were rarely subjects for artistic studies but posed before the camera again and again as objects for social scientific investigation and as exotic representatives of faraway lands. South Africans, Nubians, enslaved Abyssinians and Americans, often partially or completely naked and devoid of 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 with those of black women as domestics and as nursemaids for white children in family portraits. As seen through the camera lens, Jezebel and Mammy took the form of real women made available to serve white society.  
Bringing together some 185 images that span three centuries, the authors offer counterpoints to these exploitive images, as well as testaments to a vibrant culture. Here are nineteenth century portraits of well-dressed and beautifully coifed creoles of color and artistic studies of dignified black women. Here are Harlem Renaissance photographs of entertainer Josephine Baker and writer Zora Neale Hurston. Documenting the long struggle for black civil rights, the authors draw on politically pointed images by noted photographers like Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, and Gordon Parks. They also feature the work of contemporary artists such as Ming Smith Murray, Renee Cox, Coreen Simpson, Chester Higgins, Joy Gregory, and Catherine Opie, who photograph black women asserting their subjectivity, reclaiming their bodies, and refusing the representations of the past.  
A remarkable history of the black woman's image, The Black Female Body makes an exceptional gift book and keepsake.
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