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Eight Girls Taking Pictures - Whitney Otto Originally posted on my blog Guiltless Reading

Life lived and reimagined through a woman's eyes.

The book in one sentence: Live life large whether in front or behind the lens.

My two cents: Amazing! This makes it as another of my favourite reads for the year. With the same appeal as Otto's How to Make an American Quilt, this is altogether bold, romantic, tender and outspoken. I loved everything about it and I could relate on so many levels, as a woman, and as someone who has always been fascinated with photography and art in general.

The novel is broken up into eight sections, each featuring a famous female photographer and her story. The obvious common thread -- photography -- is just one among the many threads that hold the individual stories together. Spanning decades (early 1990s to the present), across several continents, during various historical moments -- these themes are the stuff of our lives. I just breathed it all in! I am betting that women readers will be able to relate to one (or more) of the eight characters in some way.

Women photographers are simply ordinary women who face the issues all women do: the men (or women) who we love, fulfilling the roles expected of women (or breaking out of them), feeling comfortable in one's sexuality, children (or none at all), of wanting to carve out one's one path personally and career-wise. What makes a woman happy? What makes you happy?

What sets these eight women apart is their vision (and tempestuousness) to continue with their craft -- and do so with great courage and passion -- despite (or inspite) of the many hurdles. They all managed to make their mark in photography in rather profound ways.

Each vignette opens with a photograph which figures in the story somehow (and which I tended to flip back and forth to try and see the image through that particular photographer's eyes).

The first photographer's story opens with the photo of an unmade bed with some hairpins. Note that all these photos are apparently taken by real women photographers, and then the characters' lives are reimagined by the author based on that photo. How creative and what a wonderful way to draw readers in! Of course I want to find out who Cymbeline is, who this "woman in love" is! Of course I want to know the story behind that unmade bed. Like we always say, a picture is worth a thousand words ... in this case, the words follow.

Each has made their own distinctive mark in the world of photography -- with some extremely fascinating points woven into the narratives. There are references to photography styles and influences, lenses and cameras and details that will satisfy the photography buff. And since this draws from the lives of women photographers, there is a list at the end of the book you can check out.

The stories are interspersed and coming from a small art niche, the paths of some of these women either cross physically or professionally. This makes for the reappearance or reference to the eight main characters throughout the book (and the first time it happened, I was a little surprised!)

Verdict: A beautifully written set of vignettes about the complexity of women and their photography. Highly recommended for Otto fans and photography buffs.

Amazing. Another favourite for the year. 8 women photographers, and a common thread to hold these stories altogether. Bold, romantic, tender. I loved everything about it. Full review coming soon!