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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have!, February 23, 2004
By 
A. Hurley (East Palo Alto, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (Hardcover)
Deborah Willis and Carla Williams have provided us all with an invaluable resource and powerful window into the history of photographic images of black women. I have spent countless hours with it -- reading, looking, and rereading, sometimes on the verge of tears and sometimes laughing out loud. Willis and Williams take us through the brutal & dehumanizing photographs of Joseph Zealy and the story of Sarah Baartman to black female body builders and Ms. Williams' own autobiographical pieces that draw on the very histories represented in this incredible book. I cannot emphasize enough how important this book is. While we all encounter images of black women every day, we are, as a society, grossly underprepared to interpret and understand these images and how we have been coached to see them. This book fills the gap by addressing the hitherto unexamined, bringing familiar images into "conversation" with the unfamiliar, getting us to look at black women's bodies in new ways, and challenging us to view the subjects of photographs in their contexts. Willis and Williams lay it all out, giving us the tools to understand, for example, how Li'l Kim and Adrian Piper fit into larger histories of representation. And lest anyone think this book is only about histories of oppression and ongoing oppression, Willis and Williams have included some delightful images as well, one of Pearl Bailey on page 105 being particularly surprising (her nails and eyebrows!). The section on "Colonial Conquest" (especially the "Body at Labor") is my favorite because it forces us to engage the material realities undergirding well-known images such as Manet's Olympia. Some of the images in that section made me cringe and think at the same time. This is also an incredibly beautiful book. The quality of the images, paper, and binding are stunning enough to make it a work of art in itself. And the written text is absolutely perfect -- both in terms of tone and content. It's no exaggeration to say that this book had deeply affected my own way of seeing everything from album covers and music videos to newspaper photos. Oh, and this book makes a great gift for moms of any race and age. My mom is in her 50s and white, and we have had incredible conversations about the images in the book. There's something about this book that lends itself to meaningful mother-daughter conversations. It is also clearly a must-have for anyone studying African and African American studies, women's studies, photography, art history, lesbian-gay studies, and media-communication studies. While it might seem expensive, this books is one you will read again and again over the years and is definitely worth the investment. I like it so much that I have given it to several friends and family members.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for every photo historian, April 30, 2002
By 
Clint Riley (Santa Fe, NM United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (Hardcover)
Ms. Williams and Ms. Willis have created a fascinating survey of the black female body in photography. It spans from the early stages of photography in the 1840's through contemporary processes. It provides thoughtful commentary on the role of black female models and performers in the development of the their representation both socially and culturally.
The reproductions are beautiful and provide the viewer with lush images that have been hidden from view for decades. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of photography. Every art historian should read this informative book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny, August 11, 2012
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This review is from: The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (Hardcover)
If you have an interest in photography, gender and social history then this book is for you. I have been working on my thesis which involves looking at one's identity with the context of American history and being a black woman this book is definitely helpful in my research. It's a little bit over priced especially given that its out of print (or maybe that's why its so costly) but it is worth it to add to your collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars incredible history and photographs, June 28, 2012
This review is from: The Black Female Body: A Photographic History (Hardcover)
Superbly written, invaluable information, striking images. This book serves equally well as keystone research and coffee table book for perusing and starting discussion.
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The Black Female Body: A Photographic History
The Black Female Body: A Photographic History by Deborah Willis (Hardcover - Jan. 2002)
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