Cover image for Women
Title:
Women
Author:
Leibovitz, Annie, 1949-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
239 pages : chiefly illustrations (some color) ; 33 cm
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
Subject Term:
ISBN:
9780375500206
Format :
Book

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TR681.W6 L34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize
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TR681.W6 L34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize
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Summary

Summary

The photographs by Annie Leibovitz in Women , taken especially for the book, encompass a broad spectrum of subjects: a rap artist, an astronaut, two Supreme Court justices, farmers, coal miners, movie stars, showgirls, rodeo riders, socialites, reporters, dancers, a maid, a general, a surgeon, the First Lady of the United States, the secretary of state, a senator, rock stars, prostitutes, teachers, singers, athletes, poets, writers, painters, musicians, theater directors, political activists, performance artists, and businesswomen. "Each of these pictures must stand on its own," Susan Sontag writes in the essay that accompanies the portraits. "But the ensemble says, So this what women are now -- as different, as varied, as heroic, as forlorn, as conventional, as unconventional as this."


Author Notes

Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January 16, 1933. She received a B.A. from the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne's College, Oxford University. She was the author of 17 books including four novels, a collection of short stories, several plays, and eight works of nonfiction. Her novels are The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In America, which won the 2000 National Book Award for fiction. On Photography received the 1978 National Book Critics Circle Award. Her stories and essays have appeared in numerous magazines including The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and Art in America. She also wrote and directed four feature films and stage plays in the United States and Europe. She died from leukemia on December 28, 2004 at the age of 71.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The first portrait in Leibovitz's superb gallery of women is of her mother, as fitting a presence as Sontag's, which takes the form of a crisp essay on photography and women's persistently undermined role in society. Sontag points out that the 170 women, both famous and unheralded, whom Leibovitz so artistically immortalizes, will be viewed as women always are, both as objects of beauty and as gauges of the achievements of the women's movement. Questions of allure and liberation are often at odds, and Leibovitz toys with the conflict. In some photographs, such as a group portrait of miners, the eye searches for the female, while in others, including portraits of athletes and the stunningly proud and aggressive Jerry Hall with her son at her breast, the explicitly feminine is manifest in fierce physical power. Leibovitz greatly increases our lexicon of womanhood with her brilliant photographs of musicians, doctors, teachers, trapeze artists, gangbangers, nude women, a woman in chador, women soldiers, and girls with their Barbies, all commanding attention and respect. --Donna Seaman


Library Journal Review

By now, Liebovitz is famous for her many portraits of celebrities and public figures in magazines such as Vanity Fair and Vogue. Time and again she cleanly captures the "story" of people who are perhaps too much in the camera's eye. Her work, however, is not limited to those seemingly commanding presences. Here many portraits of famous women (such as a heroic Toni Morrison, a perfectly authentic Martha Stewart, and a sexy Jerry Hall suckling her son Gabriel Jagger) are combined with Liebovitz's less well known but entirely interesting portraits of obscure women. She elicits a sort of surprising honesty from these less-practiced models. The most striking include a direct glance from Morgan W. Kelly, a young, well-chalked teacher in South Bronx; a series of paired portraits of Las Vegas showgirls in costume (color) and in daily life (black-and-white); and the cleverly juxtaposed dual portrait of two gently shy, and obese, women in front of a pick-up truck followed by one of two young girls in the back of that truck displaying their Barbie dolls. Sontag's essay on beauty and the role of photography comments on the changing status of women in America while challenging the viewer really to see this amazing array of photographs and individuals. Recommended for all photography collections.ÄRebecca Miller, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

-To look upon the faces of the women photographed in this collection of more than 200 portraits is to marvel at and admire the intensity and dignity of the personalities represented. The subjects depicted encompass every imaginable field of endeavor. There are aerialists, writers, coal miners, battered women, and socialites, to name a few. They range from anonymous to well known. Leibovitz has become a celebrity in her own right since starting her career at Rolling Stone and then moving on to work at Vogue and Vanity Fair. She is well known for her photographs of some of the icons of 20th-century culture-rock stars, movie stars, politicians, athletes, and novelists, as well as many other famous figures, often posing her subjects in unconventional and surprising ways. Sontag's thought-provoking essay gives further insight and explanation. Young adults will be inspired, challenged, and moved both by the accomplishments and situations of the women photographed, as well as by the skill and eye of the artist who captured their images.-Turid Teague, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Diversity is the hallmark of this collection of 170 portraits of women; almost every conceivable category--age, wealth, fame, religion, motherhood--is included. This nonjudgmental inclusiveness may be what will identify this collection as particularly belonging to the 1990s. As Sontag's essay points out, issues of how women are defined and seen are inevitably raised when femaleness is the subject. Most of the women in these portraits are identified by their occupations (exceptions are the very young, beauty pageant types, and victims of domestic violence). Though job identification is expected of men, it is not unilateral with perceptions of women. Further, several women do not "look" like their professions (the writer surrounded by gardening gear, the doctor in a muddy landscape), which raises the question of the validity of work identification in general and its applicability to women as well as men. Being looked at, i.e., being attractive, is usually considered an integral part of femininity. Though Leibovitz addresses beauty in a variety of ways, her coupled photographs of Las Vegas showgirls before and after costume and make-up demonstrate, especially pointedly, the illusion of beauty. The black-and-white portraits generally are more psychologically compelling, while the color portraits tend to be as much about color and composition as personality. All levels. S. Spencer; North Carolina State University


Excerpts

Excerpts

Undertake to do a book of photographs of people with nothing more in common than that they are women (and living in America at the end of the twentieth century), all-well, almost all-fully clothed, therefore not the other kind of all-women picture book ... Start with no more than a commanding notion of the sheer interestingness of the subject, especially in view of the unprecedented changes in the consciousness of many women in these last decades, and a resolve to stay open to whim and opportunity ... Sample, explore, revisit, choose, arrange, without claiming to have brought to the page a representative miscellany ... Even so, a large number of pictures of what is, nominally, a single subject will inevitably be felt to be representative in some sense. How much more so with this subject, with this book, an anthology of destinies and disabilities and new possibilities; a book that invites the sympathetic responses we bring to the depiction of a minority (for that is what women are, by every criterion except the numerical), featuring many portraits of those who are a credit to their sex. Such a book has to feel instructive, even if it tells us what we think we already know about the overcoming of perennial impediments and prejudices and cultural handicaps, the conquest of new zones of achievement. Of course, such a book would be misleading if it did not touch on the bad news as well: the continuing authority of demeaning stereotypes, the continuing violence (domestic assault is the leading cause of injuries to American women). Any large-scale picturing of women belongs to the ongoing story of how women are presented, and how they are invited to think of themselves. A book of photographs of women must, whether it intends to or not, raise the question of women-there is no equivalent "question of men." Men, unlike women, are not a work in progress. Each of these pictures must stand on its own. But the ensemble says, So this is what women are now-as different, as varied, as heroic, as forlorn, as conventional, as unconventional as this. Nobody scrutinizing the book will fall to note the confirmation of stereotypes of what women are like and the challenge to those stereotypes. Whether well-known or obscure, each of the nearly one hundred and seventy women in this album will be looked at (especially by other women) as models: models of beauty, models of self-esteem, models of strength, models of transgressiveness, models of victimhood, models of false consciousness, models of successful aging. No book of photographs of men would be interrogated in the same way. But then a book of photographs of men would not be undertaken in the same spirit. How could there be any interest in asserting that a man can be a stockbroker or a farmer or an astronaut or a miner? A book of photographs of men with sundry occupations, men only (without any additional label), would probably be a book about the beauty of men, men as objects of lustful imaginings to women and to other men. But when men are viewed as sex objects, that is not their primary identity. The traditions of regarding men as, at least potentially, the creators and curators of their own destinies and women as objects of male emotions and fantasies (lust, tenderness, fear, condescension, scorn, dependence), of regarding an individual man as an instance of humankind and an individual woman as an instance of . . . women, are still largely intact, deeply rooted in language narrative, group arrangements, and family customs. In no language does the pronoun "she" stand for human beings of both sexes. Women and men are differently weighted, physically and culturally, with different contours of selfhood, all presumptively favoring those born male. I do this, I endure this, I want this ... because I am a woman. I do that, I endure that, I want that ... even though I'm a woman. Because of the man dated inferiority of women, their condition as a cultural minority, there continues to be a debate about what women are, can be, should want to be. Freud is famously supposed to have asked, "Lord, what do women want?" Imagine a world in which it seems normal to inquire, "Lord, what do men want?"...but who can imagine such a world? No one thinks the Great Duality is symmetrical-even in America, noted since the nineteenth century by foreign travelers as a paradise for uppity women. Feminine and masculine are a tilted polarity. Equal rights for men has never inspired a march or a hunger strike. In no country are men legal minors, as women were until well into the twentieth century in many European countries, and are still in many Muslim countries, from Morocco to Afghanistan. No country gave women the right to vote before giving it to men. Nobody ever thought of men as the second sex. And yet, and yet: there is something new in the world, starting with the revoking of age-old legal shackles regarding suffrage, divorce, property rights. It seems almost inconceivable now that the enfranchisement of women happened as recently as it did: that, for instance, women in France and Italy had to wait until 1945 and 1946 to be able to vote. There have been tremendous changes in women's consciousness, transforming the inner life of everyone: the sallying forth of women from women's worlds into the world at large, the arrival of women's ambitions. Ambition is what women have been schooled to stifle in themselves, and what is celebrated in a book of photographs that emphasizes the variety of women's lives today. Such a book, however much it attends to women's activeness, is also about women's attractiveness. Nobody looks through a book of pictures of women without noticing whether the women are attractive or not. To be feminine, in one commonly felt definition, is to be attractive, or to do one's best to be attractive; to attract. (As being masculine is being strong.) While it is perfectly possible to defy this imperative, it is not possible for any woman to be unaware of it. As it is thought a weakness in a man to care a great deal about how he looks, it is a moral fault in a woman not to care "enough." Women are judged by their appearance as men are not, and women are punished more than men are by the changes brought about by aging. Ideals of appearance such as, youthfulness and slimness are in large part now created and enforced by photographic images. And, of course, a primary interest in having photographs of well-known beauties to look at over the years is seeing just how well or badly they negotiate the shame of aging. In advanced consumer societies, it is said, these "narcissistic" values are more and more the concern of men as well. But male primping never loosens the male lock on initiative taking. Indeed, glorying in one's appearance is an ancient warrior's pleasure, an expression of power, an instrument of dominance. Anxiety about personal attractiveness could never be thought defining of a man: a man can always be seen. Women are looked at. We assume a world with a boundless appetite for images, in which people, women and men, are eager to surrender themselves to the camera. But it is worth recalling that there are parts of the world where being photographed is something off-limits to women. In a few countries, where men have been mobilized for a veritable war against women, women scarcely appear at all. The imperial rights of the camera-to gaze at, to record, to exhibit anyone, anything-are an exemplary feature of modern life, as is the emancipation of women. And just as the granting of more and more rights and choices to women s a measure o a societys embrace of modernity, so the revolt against modernity initiates a rush to rescind the meager gains toward participation in society on equal terms with men won by women, mostly urban, educated women, in previous decades. In many countries struggling with failed or discredited attempts to modernize, there are more and more covered women. The traditional unity of a book of photographs of women is some ideal of female essence: women gaily displaying their sexual charms, women veiling themselves behind a look of soulfulness or primness. Portraits of women featured their beauty; portraits of men their "character." Beauty (the province of women) was smooth; character (the province of men) was rugged. Feminine was yielding, placid, or plaintive; masculine was forceful, piercing. Men didn't look wistful. Women, ideally, didn't look forceful. When in the early 1860s a well-connected, exuberant, middle-aged Englishwoman named Julia Margaret Cameron took up the camera as a vocation, she usually photographed men differently than she photographed women. The men, who included some of the most eminent poets, sages, and scientists of the Victorian era, were posed for their portraits. The women-somebody's wife, daughter, sister, niece-served mostly as models for "fancy sub)ects" (Cameron's label). Women were used to personify ideals of womanliness drawn from literature or mythology: the vulnerability and pathos of Ophelia; the tenderness of the Madonna with her Child. Almost all the sitters were relatives and friends reclothed, incarnated several exalted or her parlormaid, who, suitably icons of femininity. Only Julia Jackson, Cameron's niece (and the future mother of the future Virginia Woolf), was, in homage to her exceptional beauty, never posed as anyone but herself. What qualified the women as sitters was precisely their beauty, as fame and achievement qualified the men. The beauty of women made them ideal subjects. (Notably, there was no role for picturesque or exotic beauty, so that when Cameron and her husband moved to Ceylon, she virtually stopped taking pictures.) Indeed, Cameron defined photography as a quest for the beautiful. And quest it was: "Why does not Mrs. Smith come to be photographed?" she wrote to a friend about a lady in London whom she had never met. "I hear she is Beautiful. Bid her come, and she shall be made Immortal." Imagine a book of pictures of women in which none of the women could be identified as beautiful. Wouldn't we feel that the photographer had made some kind of mistake? Was being mean-spirited? Misogynistic? Was depriving us of something that we had a right to see? No one would say the same thing of a book of portraits of men. There were always several kinds of beauty: imperious beauty, voluptuous beauty, beauty signifying the character traits that fitted a woman for the confines of genteel domes ticity-do cill ty, pliancy, serenity. Beauty was not just loveliness of feature and expression, an aesthetic ideal. It also spoke to the eye about the virtues deemed essential in women. For a woman to be intelligent was not essential, not even particularly appropriate. It was in fact considered disabling, and likely to be inscribed in her appearance. Such is the fate of a principal character in The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins's robustly, enthrallingly clever bestseller, which appeared in 1860, just before Cameron started making her portraits. Here is how this woman is introduced, early in the novel, in the voice of its young hero: ... I looked from the table to the window farthest from me, and saw a lady standing at it, with her back turned towards me. The instant my eyes rested on her, I was struck by the rare beauty of her form, and by the unaffected grace of her attitude. Her figure was tall, yet not too tall; comely and well-developed, yet not fat; her head set on her shoulders with an easy, pliant firmness; her waist, perfection in the eyes of a man, for it occupied its natural place, it filled out its natural circle, it was visibly and delightfully undeformed by stays. She had not heard my entrance into the room; and I allowed myself the luxury of admiring her for a few moments, before I moved one of the chairs near me, as the least embarrassing means of attracting her attention. She turned towards me immediately. The easy elegance of every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began to advance from the far end of the room set me in a flutter of expectation to see her face clearly. She left the window-and I said to myself, The lady is dark. She moved forward a few steps-and I said to myself, The lady is young. She approached nearer-and I said to myself (with a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly! Reveling in the presumptions and delights of the appraising male gaze, the narrator has noted that, seen from behind and in long shot, the lady satisfies all the criteria of female desirability. Hence his acute surprise, when she turns and comes toward him, at her "ugly" face (it is not allowed to be just plain or homely), which, he explains, is a kind of paradox: Never was the old conventional maxim, that Nature cannot err, more flatly contradicted-never was the fair promise of a lovely figure more strangely and startlingly belied by the face and head that crowned it. The lady's complexion was almost swarthy, and the dark down on her upper lip was almost a moustache. She had a large, firm, masculine mouth and jaw; prominent, piercing, resolute brown eyes; and thick, coal-black hair, growing unusually low down on her forehead. Her expression-b right, frank, and intelligent-appeared, while she was silent, to be altogether wanting in those feminine attractions of gentleness and pliability, without which the beauty of the handsomest woman alive is beauty incomplete. Marian Halcombe will turn out to be the most admirable character in Collins's novel, awarded every virtue except the capacity to inspire desire. Moved only by generous, noble sentiments, she has a near angelic, that is, archetypally femmine, temperament-except for the troubling matter of her uncommon intelligence, her frankness, her want of "pliability." Marian Halcombe's body, so ideally feminine that it is judged ripe for appropriation by a (presumably male) artist, conveys "modest graces of action." Her head, her face, signifies something more concentrated, exacting-unfeminine. The body gives one message, the face another. And face trumps body-as intelligence, to the detriment of female sexual attractiveness, trumps beauty. The narrator concludes: To see such a face as this set on shoulders that a sculptor would have longed to model-to be charmed by the modest graces of action through which the symmetrical limbs betrayed their beauty when they moved, and then to be almost repelled by the masculine form and masculine look of the features in which the perfectly shaped figure ended-was to feel a sensation oddly akin to the helpless discomfort familiar to us all in sleep, when we recognise yet cannot reconcile the anomalies and contradictions of a dream. Collins's male narrator is touching a gender faultline, which typically arouses anxieties and feelings of discomfort. The contradiction in the order of sexual stereotypes may seem dreamlike to a well-adjusted inhabitant of an era in which action, enterprise, artistic creativity, and intellectual innovation are understood to be masculine, fraternal orders. For a long time the beauty of a woman seemed incompatible, or at least oddly matched, with intelligence and assertiveness. (A far greater novelist, Henry James, in the preface to The Portrait of a Lady, speaks of the challenge of filling the "frail vessel" of a female protagonist with all the richness of an independent consciousness.) To be sure, no novelist today would find it implausible to award good looks to a woman who is cerebral and self-assertive. But in real life it's still common to begrudge a woman who has both beauty and intellectual brilliance-one would never say there was something odd or intimidating or "unfair" about a man who was so fortunate-as if beauty, the ultimate enabler of feminine charm, should by rights have barred other kinds of excellence. In a woman beauty is something total. It is what stands, in a woman, for character. It is also, of course, a performance; something willed, designed, obtained. Looking through an old family photograph album, the Russian-born F h riter AndreY Makine recalls a trick used to get the particular glow of beauty he saw in some of the women's faces: ... these women knew that in order to be beautiful, what they must do several seconds before the flash blinded them was to articulate the following mysterious syllables in French, of which few understood the meaning: "pe-tite-pomme." As if by magic, the mouth, instead of being extended in counterfeit bliss, or contracting into an anxious grin, would form a gracious round. . . . The eyebrows arched slightly, the oval of the cheeks was elongated. You said "petite pomme, " and the shadow of a distant and dreamy sweetness veiled your gaze, refined your features ... A woman being photographed aspired to a standardized look that signified an ideal refinement of "feminine" traits, as conveyed through beauty; and beauty was understood to be a distancing from the ordinary; as photographed, it projected something enigmatic, dreamy, inaccessible. Now, idiosyncrasy and forthrightness of expression are what make a photographic portrait interesting. And refinement is passe, and seems pretentious or phony. Beauty-as photographed in the mainstream tradition that prevailed until recently-blurred women's sexuality. And even in photographs that were frankly erotic, the body might be telling one story and the face another: a naked woman lying in a strenuously indecent position, spread-eagled or presenting her rump, with the face turned toward the viewer wearing the vapidly amiable expression of respectable photographic portraiture. Newer ways of photographing women are less concealing of women's sexuality, though the display of once forbidden female flesh or carnal posturing is still fraught as a subject, so inveterate are responses that reassert male condescensions to women in the guise of lecherous appreciation. Women's libidinousness is always being repressed or held against them. The identification of women with beauty was a way of immobilizing women. While character evolves, reveals, beauty is static, a mask, a magnet for projection. In the legendary final shot of Queen Chrl'stina, the Queen-Greta Garbo-having abdicated the Swedish throne, renouncing the masculinizing prerogatives of a monarch for the modesty of a woman's happiness, and boarded the ship to join her foreign lover and depart with him into exile only to find him mortally wounded by a vengeful rejected suitor from her court, stands at the ship's prow with the wind in her face, a monument of heartbreak. While the lighting for the shot was being prepared, Garbo asked the director, Rouben Mamoulian, what she should be thinking during the take. Nothing, he famously replied. Don't think of anything. Go blank. His instruction produced one of the most emotion-charged images in movie history: as the camera moves in and holds on a long close-up, the spectator has no choice but to read mounting despair on that incomparably beautiful, dry-eyed, vacant face. The face that is a mask on which one can project whatever is desired is the consummate perfection of the looked-at-ness of women. The identification of beauty as the ideal condition of a woman is, if anything, more powerful than ever, although today's hugely complex fashionand-photography system sponsors norms of beauty that are far less provincial, more diverse, and favor brazen rather than demure ways of facing the camera. The downcast gaze, a staple of the presentation of women to the camera, should have a touch of sullennness if it is not to seem insipid. Ideas of beauty are less immobilizing now. But beauty itself is an ideal of a stable, unchanging appearance, a commitment to staving off or disguising the marks of time. The norms of sexual attractiveness for women are an index of their vulnerability. A man ages into his powers. A woman ages into being no longer desired. Forever young, forever good-looking, forever sexy-beauty is still a construction, a transformation, a masquerade. We shouldn't be surprised though of course we are-that in real life, when she is not decked out as a cliche" of desirability, the flamboyant, bespangled, semi-nude Las Vegas showgirl can be a mature woman of unremarkable features and sober presence. The eternal feminine project of self-embellishment has always been able to pull off such triumphs. Since to be feminine is to have qualities which are the opposite, or negation, of ideal masculine qualities, for a long time it was hard to elaborate the attractiveness of the strong woman in other than mythic or allegorical guise. The heroic woman was an allegorical fantasy in nineteenth-century painting and sculpture: Liberty leading the People. The large-gestured, imperiously draped, convulsively powerful woman danced by Martha Graham in the works she created for her all-women troupe in the 1930s-a turning point in the history of how women's strength, women's anger have been represented-was a mythic archetype (priestess, rebel, mourning daimon, quester) presiding over a community of women, not a real woman compromising and cohabiting with and working alongside men. Dentist, orchestra conductor, commercial pilot, rabbi, lawyer, astronaut, film director, professional boxer, law-school dean, three-star general ... no doubt about it, ideas about what women can do, and do well, have changed. And what women mind has changed. Male behavior, from the caddish to the outright violent, that until recently was accepted without demurral is seen today as outrageous by many women who not so long ago were putting up with it themselves and who would still protest indignantly if someone described them as feminists. To be sure, what has done most to change the stereotypes of frivolity and fecklessness afflicting women are not the labors of the various feminisms, indispensable as these have been. It is the new economic realities that oblige most American women (including most women with small children) to work outside their homes. The measure of how much things have not changed is that women earn between one half and three fourths of what men earn in the same jobs. And virtually all occupations are still gender-labeled: with the exception of a few occupations (prostitute, nurse, secretary) where the reverse is true and it needs to be specified if the person is a man, one has to put "woman" in front of most job titles when it's a woman doing them; otherwise the presumption will always be that one is referring to a man. Any woman of accomplishment becomes more acceptable if she can be seen as pursuing her ambitions, exercising her competence, in a feminine (wily, nonconfrontational) way. "No harsh feminist, Ms. X has attained . . ." begins the reassuring accolade to a woman in a job with executive responsibilities.  That women are the equals of men-the new idea-continues to collide with the age-old presumption of female inferiority and serviceability: that it is normal for a woman to be in an essentially dependent or self-sacrificingly supportive relation to at least one man. So ingrained is the presupposition that the man will be taller, older, richer, more successful than the woman with whom he mates that the exceptions, of which there are now many, never fail to seem noteworthy. It seems normal for a journalist to ask the husband of a woman more famous than himself if he feels "threatened" by his wife's eminence. No one would dream of wondering if the nonfamous wife of an important industrialist, surgeon, writer, politician, actor, feels threatened by her husband's eminence. And it is still thought that the ultimate act of love for a woman is to efface her own identity-a loving wife in a two-career marriage having every cause for anguish should her success overtake and surpass her husband's. ("Hello, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.")  Accomplished women, except for those in the performing professions, continue to be regarded as an anomaly. It appears to make sense, for many reasons, to have anthologies of women writers or exhibits of women photographers; it would seem very odd to propose an anthology of writers or an exhibit of photographers who had nothing in common except that they were men. We want photography to be unmythic, full of concrete information. We are more comfortable with photographs that are ironic, unidealizing. Decorum is now understood as concealment. We expect the photographer to be bold, even insolent. We hope that subjects will be candid, or naYvely revealing. Of course, subjects who are accustomed to posing---women of achievement, women of notoriety-will offer something more guarded, or defiant. And the way women and men really look (or allow themselves to appear) is not identical with how it is thought appropriate to appear to the camera. What looks right, or attractive, in a photograph is often no more than what illustrates the felt "naturalness" of the unequal distribution of powers conventionally accorded women and men. just as photography has done so much to confirm these stereotypes, it can engage in complicating and undermining them. In this collection, we see women catering to the imperatives of looked-at-ness. We see women for whom, because of age or because they're preoccupied by the duties and pleasures of raising children, the rules of ostentatiously feminine performance are irrelevant. There are many portraits of women defined by the new kinds of work now open to them. There are strong women, some of them doing "men's jobs," some of them dancers and athletes with the powerful musculature that only recently began to be visible when such champion female bodies were photographed. One of the tasks of photography is to disclose, and shape our sense of, the variety of the world. It is not to present ideals. There is no agenda except diversity and interestingness. There are no judgments, which of course is itself a judgment. And that variety is itself an ideal. We want now to know that for every this there is a that. We want to have a plurality of models. Photography is in the service of the postjudgmental ethos gaining ascendancy in societies whose norms are drawn from the practices of consumerism. The camera shows us many worlds, and the point is that all the images are valid. A woman may be a cop or a beauty queen or an architect or a housewife or a physicist. Diversity is an end in itself-much celebrated in today's America. There is the very American, very modern faith in the possibility of continuous self-transformation. A life, after all, is commonly referred to as a lifestyle. Styles change. This celebration of variety, of individuality, of individuality as style, saps the authority of gender stereotypes, and has become an inexorable counterforce to the bigotry that still denies women more than token access to many occupations and experiences. That women, in the same measure as men, should be able to fulfill their individuality is, of course, a radical idea. It is in this form, for better and for worse, that the traditional feminist call forl'ustice for women has come to seem most plausible. A book of photographs; a book about women; a very American project: generous, ardent, inventive, open-ended. It's for us to decide what to make of these pictures. After all, a photograph is not an opinion. Or is it? SUSAN SONTAG Excerpted from Women by Annie Leibovitz, Susan Sontag All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.