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Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee, “Apple Orchard, Manzanar Japanese-American Relocation Camp, Owens Valley, California,” 1995, c-print


The blog post I had just begun contended that far too few photography writers archive their work online. Drawing a name from the proverbial hat to test my premise, I googled “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men,” and to my delight, a pdf of Deborah Bright’s essay appeared at the top of the results. If you’ve never read this po-mo classic, the internet (and Deborah Bright) just made it easier for you.

Here’s what Bright has to say about her essay:

Probably my most widely known essay, “Of Mother Nature” was an attempt to answer the question: “Why are there no great women landscape photographers?” With twenty years of hindsight, I can appreciate the polemical tone of the essay as an artifact of its time in the mid-1980s (raging gender wars within the Society for Photographic Education where I was active in the Women’s Caucus, an exciting energy as artists and scholars were speaking truth to power in the academy and art world and inventing new critical tools to dismantle entrenched minority privilege.) Those heady days seem distant, now, as conservative backlash has taken its toll. However, the fact that this essay still strikes a chord with so many young people indicates to me that it’s still doing its good work.

This essay was originally published in Exposure 23:1 (Winter 1985).

Download “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men” here, and find more of Bright’s essays here.

(I’m also happy to report that the hardest part of this entry was deciding which great female landscape photographer to use in illustrating the piece. There are so many to choose from… )

Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee

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4 Comments

  1. Laura McPhee was my other teacher. I am enjoying this blog.

  2. Really? Abe Morrell and Laura McPhee? That’s a pretty nice pedigree, Mr. Norris! Can’t wait for the show at Newspace to open—Chas

  3. Yeah. They were both wonderful teachers, and of course I also had regular access to and conversations with Nick Nixon. They are all such ‘classic’ photographers.

  4. Just a note for others who are interested in more info on Deborah Bright’s work – her website is http://www.deborahbright.net (not the deborahwright.com that the links above will take you to – that’s some sort of car-selling website).


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