Whitney Otto is best known for her best-selling novel that was made into a film, How to Make an American Quilt. After a long break between novels, she’s back with Eight Girls Taking Pictures, a love story of female photographers and their passion.
Eight Girls Taking Pictures is a collection of loosely-linked short stories, spanning the 20th century and following eight different female photographers and their lives as models, muses, lovers, and mothers. The women all come from similar backgrounds, with parents who encourage and often fund their interest in photography, and all deal with the same issues of being taken seriously. Settings range from pre-war Berlin to Argentina during the 60s to the Bay Area in the 80s and all are exquisitely described, one has the feeling of being in the French countryside or a Greek square.
While the characters are based on real women, the events that take place are not. Only one character, Cymbeline Kelly, appears in multiple stories, and she’s missing from most of the middle of the book. I would have liked a little more separation of the women, because they all had similar backgrounds and views they started to blend together; however, knowing that they are based on real women made this understandable.
The author clearly did her homework when writing this book, the historical aspects, as well as those of photography, are well described and presented. I enjoyed the different fields within the field – battlefield photos, where women were not allowed, the world of advertising, or simply the art of taking pictures of your own children. The women are all feminists, some more actively than others, and all struggle with their relationships with the men in their lives.
Eight Girls Taking Pictures is a novel that would be enjoyed by those interested in photography for sure, but also how women and the art evolved throughout the last century.
Notes on the audiobook: The audio version of this book left a lot to be desired. The narrator did a fine enough job of reading the story, however I felt that providing accents for the characters, who are German, English, Dutch and other nationalities, would have added greatly to the story and helped to separate the characters who somewhat blended together. This book is the rare occasion where I wish I had read instead of listened.
Nancy enjoys taking pictures of her kids and would love to take a photography class one day. She writes about her boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.