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The Model Wife Hardcover – October, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Photographer and author Arthur Ollman explores nine couples whose collaborations as photographer and wife have resulted in a series of pictures that speak volumes about marriage itself, the distinction between self and other, the observer and the observed. In another writer's hands the subject could have become merely a gimmick, an excuse for a book, but in Ollman's it has extraordinary depth. He is an engaging writer and a thoroughgoing scholar who studied the couples he portrays, and he writes with understanding, balance, and respect about mental illness, suicide, loss of love, loss of life, and the simple vagaries of daily, entwined responsibilities.

The photographers are Baron Adolph de Meyer, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, Emmet Gowin, Lee Friedlander, Masahisa Fukase, Seiichi Furuya, and Nicholas Nixon--three of whom still photograph the wives whose long-lost, limber years are included here. In a long introductory essay, Ollman touches on a dozen important themes: the definition of muse, the ambitions of the subject, the role of the photographer in "postmortem recording," the vulnerability of both artist and subject, the collaborative role of the wife, the difference in depictions of wives as opposed to mistresses (he scathingly deconstructs Andrew Wyeth's secret, near-predatory relationship with the silent, compliant Helga), and the mutuality that these nine relationships exude. "Only the most secure or brazen persist in the long-term portrayal of their spouse," he concludes. In the chapters that follow, Ollman writes brief histories of the photographers and marriages represented by carefully chosen series of pictures. This is a beautifully nuanced book on every level: visual, verbal, and imaginative. --Peggy Moorman

From Library Journal

As director of the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, Ollman has organized an upcoming exhibition centered on male photographers' images of their wives. The nine couples presented in this accompanying catalog had long-term, intimate relationships wherein the wife was both collaborator and muse. The subjects span the 20th century and include such well-known figures as Adolph de Meyer, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Harry Callahan, as well as less familiar artists. Utilizing excerpts from interviews and letters, Ollman's introductory overview and lively essays that precede each artist's portfolio reveal a remarkable linkage among the photographers and highlight the complex effects of love and marriage on art. About 150 duotone and five color plates, beautifully displayed, capture a vulnerability, trust, and willingness to be photographed shared by the wives. In the majority of the photographs, the wife appears alone, often unabashedly nude, and a sublime tenderness becomes apparent. Recommended for public and academic collections.
-Joan Levin, MLS, Chicago
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bulfinch Press; 1st edition (October 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0821221701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0821221709
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 10.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,188,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I found this very insightful as far as giving a variety of examples of portraite shots, nudes and daily life. Also very interesting in that the book shows about (can't remember that exact count) a half a dozen notable photographer's wives photographed through an extended period of time. As we all know, people and things we see on a daily basis, tend to be taken for granted. It's pretty easy to overlook the beauty of our own backyard. So, to actually see photographers including their wives as models (hence the title "The Model Wife" ;) was rather refreshing. There's a fair amount of nude shots in the book. Some might be considered a bit "wild" (Not by me, mind you. But if you feel the line between photographic art and pornography is very thin, this book is not for you). Likewise(all things in proper place) this is NOT a book to be left around at a day care center, either. I feel this is a good book for those seriously interested in photography, photographers (and how they see what we would hope be their favorite subject... their own wife), portraites and nudes. The paper and print quality of this book is excellent. Size and presentation of the book are also pleasing. If, after what I've said, you are unsure about this book, go anywhere you think you could get your hand on a copy of this book, review it yourself, and then decide.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Arthur Ollman has achieved an intense and unique premise: To view the range of photographs and relationships between nine photographers and their wives as models. He has selected masteful artists, outstanding images, then with articulate text proceeds to bring these couples off the page. Ollman's study of what reflected artist and wife before the cameras as collaborators, is equally weighted by his search within these marriages, be they loving and sustaining or dark and disturbing. The humanity of these nine couples supports the fine art of portraiture. This is a book for the serious art book collector, devotees of fine art photography, and any mature person who ever pondered the nuance of marriage. A beautiful and graceful achievement. The duo-toned photographs are exquisite.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mark McMillian on July 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I recently attended the accompanying exhibit to this book at the Cleveland Museum of Art and I was truly touched. It was a powerfully psychological set of pictures, very deep; some clearly sexual in nature, others frankly disturbing (one photographer took photos of his wife's body AFTER she committed suicide by jumping out of a ninth floor window). The overall feel of the book as well as for the exhibit was one of mutual revelation over time between wife and husband and needless to say, some of the photos are quite intimate yet genuine. There is no need to critique individual photos or photographers, they are all masters producing masterworks. Get the book, and if the exhibit comes to your city, go. Don't forget to take your wife.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've met two of the women in this book (O'Keeffe and Wilson) and there is nothing in the book that tells you anything about them, even though the photographs are masterpeices. So what's wrong?
The relationship between the artist and model is trivialized by the presentation, probably because the subject is too huge for a book. O'Keeffe and Wilson had a big impact on how photography is done, each in her own way. So did Eleanor Callahan and the Brown Sisters, less intentionally.
Read what Charis Wilson has published instead of glancing at this book. Read the volumes on Stieglitz and O'Keeffe. It was certainly not vanity that caused these two women to preserve and publish their images. In fact, Wilson probably rescued her images from destruction.
Artists don't make masterpieces without models who plant the images and wish to see them. They don't do it twice unless both artist and model like what they see. What really happens is in the space between them, in the time of history.
Don't let this well intended book put you off. Go find out who these people were and find out why the work was a collaboration, why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Above all don't lose sight of the mystery that made these works memorable, just because the presentation isn't up to the subject.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The photographs in this book are the reason to read it. You will see a fairly good representation of images with their wives as subject by nine important photographers (150 in black and white and 5 in color). These photographs show an intriguing progression of perception and relationship over time that you can and should judge for yourself. In almost all cases, the images cover at least a decade (and often more) so the time-lapse element of the relationship is strong.
Before going further, you should know that there are nudes in the book, as well as sections of nudes. If this were a movie, it would probably be R rated. So, plan accordingly. There is certainly nothing that is not in reasonably good taste, but the unclothed states here will be viewed by most parents as inappropriate for many children.
The book concept here is an intriguing one. "With a spouse as model, both participants are exposed . . . ." They are "equally aware of ech other's strengths, shortcomings, vulnerabilities -- both equally naked in the light of the relationship."
The couples (husband-photographer listed first, as the book does) so displayed here are:
Baron Adolph de Meyer and Baroness Olga de Meyer
Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe
Edward Weston and Charis Weston
Harry Callahan and Eleanor Callahan
Emmet Gowin and Edith Gowin
Lee Friedlander and Maria Friedlander
Nicholas Nixon and Bebe Nixon
Masahisa Fukase and Yoko Fukase
Seiichi Furuya and Christine Gossler
With that clue, the book's viewer will find much food for thought. First, the photographer husbands clearly did not see their wives as the kind of woman professional that many of us think about today.
Read more ›
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