December 2012

The women behind the cameras

By Whitney Otto
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From the best-selling author of How to Make an American Quilt comes another tour de force, Eight Girls Taking Pictures. This exquisitely written novel-as-linked-stories is an impressive ode to feminism as Whitney Otto follows the lives and careers of eight daring female photographers—most based on real-life figures—staking their ground as artists throughout the 20th century.

Spanning several decades and various romantic settings such as Paris, Berlin, San Francisco and Mexico, Otto’s novel highlights the challenges these women face as they attempt to balance career with family life. Whether they are encountering anti-Semitism, sexism or homophobia, the women risked everything to snap the perfect shot.

Like a master portraitist, Otto focuses on the details, describing studio settings as if she were staging a photograph herself. Although fans will notice that some of these women have appeared in Otto’s pages before, Eight Girls Taking Pictures is a chronicle of the difficulties female artists face in claiming all their possible titles: mother, lover, wife, but, most importantly, artist.

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