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Role Models, Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography

Role Models, Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography


Published to coincide with the exhibition at The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., October 17,2008-January 25, 2009.

In today's image-conscious world, photography is one of the most powerful mediators of our sense of self. Exploring the ways in which female identity is constructed and mediated through the art of photography is the central theme of this fascinating, fully illustrated book.

This book features the work of two generations of artists whose portraiture, self-portraiture, and narrative photographs have indelibly inflected our understanding of gender and identity over the past thirty years. More specifically, it focuses on how role models and role-playing have been central to the art, meaning, and social function of contemporary photography. Role Models begins with the early 1980s, a time when many American women artists and photographers such as Eleanor Antin and Cindy Sherman realized they could be both the creator and the subject of their work, while others such as Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, and Mary Ellen Mark sought to document the varied roles that women and girls try on in their struggle to find and identity that fits. Role Models also considers how, by the late 1990s, a generation of photographers including Anna Gaskell, Catherine Opie, and Nikki S. Lee had become exemplars for a new cadre of younger women artists by collapsing old boundaries between postmodern and documentary photography, establishing new post-feminist sensibilities and evolving more fluid concepts of female identity.