Naked Women is a collection
of the work of ninety photographers, one image per artist, accompanied by a
page of text explaining a little about the piece and its creator. It's a
nicely constructed book, with a strong softcover binding and a high quality of
reproduction. As a history of photography, it is obviously incomplete since it
only provides a glimpse of the range of artists who depict naked women. What
makes it an interesting selection is Phil Braham's deliberate effort to include
a large number of female photographers and a wide variety of ways portraying
the body. It includes several historically important works from the last
hundred years, but the focus is more on modern work. While it does contain a
few examples of predictable erotica, most of the images are unusual and
innovative. For instance, "Martye C. 2000 B.C.E. - 2000 A.D." by Ani
Garick is a copper-toned image of a large breast with a prominent nipple.
Braham explains that it is from her "Torso" series and suggests that
the work encourages the viewer to consider the body in a new way. Nadav Kander's
"Irma" shows an old gray-haired woman, topless against a white
background, staring straight at the camera. Her breasts have lost all their
volume and her skin is very wrinkled. Braham writes that the viewer "is
reminded of the androgynous appearance of the body in life's later
stages," which is a questionable interpretation since Irma is unambiguously
female. However, in this age in which beauty is equated with youth, the image
does show the body in which we rarely see it. David Glover's "Joy"
is a black and white image of a large woman sitting down, her face looking up
and her arms raised in celebration, providing a rare positive image of
fatness. Tara Darby is a British photographer in whose warm
"Untitled," one of her friends lies relaxed and naked on a bed with
her arms extended above her head. We see the sky dark at the window,
suggesting the time is dusk, and the figure is lit from the side by yellow
artificial light. There's a strong sense of intimacy and subdued eroticism to
Since women's bodies are so central
to our representation of femininity and sexuality, and most depiction of women
in mass media generally lacks imagination and follows along very predictable
lines, Naked Women is a refreshing collection of images. It is not as
comprehensive as William Ewing's excellent selection in The Body (reviewed in Metapsychology
December 2001) but it contains some more recent work that Ewing misses.
Braham has done a great job bringing together these different photographers,
and this work will inspire most readers to find out more about many of them.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island.
He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.