Sills's (Inspirations: Stories About Women Artists) eye-opening introduction to a half-dozen strong, often pioneering women photographers focuses on how their lives, experiences and imaginations influenced their work. At the beginning of the century, Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) staged deliberate and stylized compositions that proved photographs could not only record real life but also "be an artist's creation." (O'Keeffe fans can't help but notice the similarity between Cunningham's photograph Magnolia Blossom, 1925 and the painter's close-ups of flowers; the two artists were contemporaries.) Dorothea Lange's (1895-1965) photographs, on the other hand, were deemed "documentary." Her work chronicling Dust Bowl casualties and the plight of sharecroppers during the Depression precipitated government relief in the form of food and improved living facilities. Lola Alvarez Bravo (1907-1993) wanted her work to lovingly "stand for a Mexico that once existed," as she photographed a post-revolution Mexico. She acknowledges a debt to her painter friends, such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Jos Clemente Orozco (who taught her about light, composition, etc.). For the three modern photographers included, Sills offers much less biographical information and therefore readers may feel more distanced from them. Still, she makes a strong case for the contributions of Carrie Mae Weems, perhaps best known for a series of photos that takes a critical look at the way U.S. culture views African Americans in "American Icons" (1988-1989); and of Elsa Dorfman, whose friendship with the Beat poets inspired her to record "everyday life." In perhaps the most accessible example for young readers, Sills makes the connection between Cindy Sherman's childhood love for playacting and dress-up, and her famous staged self-portraits, each of which hint at a mysterious story. Supported throughout by well-chosen selections of each woman's work, this attractive volume may inspire a new generation to take up the camera. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 6 Up-A celebration of the diverse careers and artistic styles of six photographers whose work spans nearly a century. Veterans Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, and Lola Alvarez Bravo are featured along with relative newcomers Elsa Dorfman, Carrie Mae Weems, and Cindy Sherman. In an upbeat voice, Sills traces the women's early lives and the events that propelled them to explore the world with a camera in hand, often breaking down ethnic and gender barriers in the process. While she does justice to the biographical details of her subjects, her discussions of their individual techniques suffer because there are too few photographs. The chapter on Lange, for example, has only nine photographs, and while five of them depict her evocative portraits of Dust Bowl refugees, they fail to reveal the breadth of her talent. Chapters on Bravo and Weems include just six representative works of each artist. However, an excellent bibliography and list of Web sites will point readers to sources containing additional visual elements.-William McLoughlin, Brookside School, Worthington, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.