Thursday , February 22 2024
The definitive retrospective of the life's work of Joyce Tenneson.

Book Review: Joyce Tenneson – A Life In Photography 1968 – 2008

Considered by American Photo magazine to be one of the ten most influential women photographers in the history of photography, Joyce Tenneson has had her work published in LIFE, Esquire, Newsweek, and The New York Times Magazine. She is the author of over 12 prior books, including the best seller “Wise Women,” and she is the recipient of numerous awards.

In A Life In Photography 1968 – 2008, Tenneson provides a retrospective of a career that spans four decades. Beginning with her first black-and-white studies in self-portraiture, through her transformations period, through her work with light, color and into the exploration of maturing women, as well as trying to look to what is ahead.

Joyce Tenneson – A Life In Photography 1968 – 2008 is divided into several sections which encompass these periods. While not everything is covered, it does seem to take into account each decade.

“Early Work” examines the early personal journey that is played out by someone who is trying to find themselves in photography. Her photographic career started while she was modeling, when someone gave her a camera. These are very autobiographical images that are a record of the first steps in a long career. They include the self portraits as well as the images of her son Alex. These cover the late ’60s and ’70s.

“Transformation” is based on the first Tenneson book to feature her color work. Published in 1993, it was timed to coincide with a traveling exhibition. These images present the full range of her personal color work since she began to work in color in the mid ’80s.

“Light Warriors” is a selection of images from her 2000 book that paints women as a mystic and timeless vision of the female psyche by using a bold departure into the colors of luminous dark browns and blacks. It is the universal quest for the spiritual warrior trying to find their own uniqueness.

“Wise Women” is a select collection from her 2002 book in which she traveled throughout America to photograph and interview women from ages 65 to 100. The concept of this book was that in ancient times, the older women of the tribe were the keepers of the primal mysteries and therefore revered for their wisdom. Here she found women from all walks of life, from ordinary mothers and grandmothers to the likes of the more famous like Sandra Day O’ Conner and Angela Lansbury.

“The Road Ahead” is both a reflection on where Tenneson has been as well as where she is going. These are both directions down the same road. According to the author, “Life is a journey and that the most important thing is to stay on the path.” With her son grown with two children, the images here both reflects on the past as well as make way for the future.

Joyce Tenneson – A Life In Photography 1968 – 2008 is simply a wonderful book. It paints a portrait of someone who has explored the world around them and presented a record of it. It is visual poetry and creative artistry rolled together to present a vision of reality. I would be remiss to not point out that this book contains nudity, but only of stylized art form.

If you want to see the style of work that is encompassed in Joyce Tenneson – A Life In Photography 1968 – 2008 you can check out one of her galleries. I would also suggest checking out the books Wise Women and Light Warriors. But if you want the definitive retrospective of her life’s work, then I recommend Joyce Tenneson – A Life In Photography 1968 – 2008.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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