Distributed for Columbia College Chicago Press
For nearly thirty years, Melissa Ann Pinney has been photographing girls and women, from infancy to old age, to portray how feminine identity is constructed, taught, and communicated. Pinney’s work depicts not only the rites of American womanhood, but also the informal passages of girlhood and adolescence. With each view—from solitary subjects in pensive moments to complex family and social situations—the audience gains a richer understanding of the connections between a daughter and her parents, grandparents, and the larger world of friends and society. The pictures also reflect the ways in which a girl’s world in 2010 differs from the world Pinney knew growing up in the 1960s, and the ways in which the making of a person can transcend time and place.
Girl Ascending is a sequel to Pinney’s widely praised first book, Regarding Emma: Photographs of American Women and Girls. Of that previous book Janina Ciezaldo wrote in Aperture, “Pinney brings compositional integrity, knowledge of color, and a Midwestern richness of light to her inquiries.” This second volume is even more accomplished, mature, and stylistically consistent. As David Travis writes in his introduction, “Pinney has regained that sense of wonder, making her view of girls ascending into young women both believable and enchanting.”
Pinney’s photographs are powerful and insightful. As social and artistic documents, they reveal the subtle and bold aspects of feminine identity as it is expressed in American places and spaces, both private and public.