Posing Beauty

Posted on October 8, 2010. Filed under: Nonfiction |

Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890’s to the Present
by Deborah Willis

In this book, Deborah Willis has collected a stunning array of photographs from a slave poster, art shots, family portraits, beauty contests, depictions of everyday life, to portraits of famous people. Each photo adds another layer to the concept of African American beauty. The author is not trying to classify beauty, though. Instead her “aim is to consider the idea of black beauty in photography–how it is posed, constructed, imagined, reviewed, critiqued, and contested in art, the media, and everyday culture” (Willis xv). The author shows both how beauty is perceived by the photographer at that time, and challenges the reader to redefine their own concepts of beauty. Can beauty be powerful? Can beautiful people be smart? Is beauty a sense of style or a sense of self?

I found these photos to be not just beautiful, but educational and enlightening. Each photo was a snapshot in time, and I felt I could gain a sense of both what the photographer felt and intended by choosing his or her subject, and, in many cases, what the subject felt about themselves. The men and women shown in this book show beauty in all its forms, and it is a joy to look through. The authors introduction also proved informative. Overall, I highly recommend this photography book.

-posted by Gretchen Schneider

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