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Susan Meiselas: Carnival Strippers [Hardcover]

By Susan Meiselas, Sylvia Wolf (Contributor) & Deirdre English (Contributor)
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Item description for Susan Meiselas: Carnival Strippers by Susan Meiselas, Sylvia Wolf & Deirdre English...

From 1972 to 1975, Susan Meiselas spent her summers photographing and interviewing women who performed striptease for small town carnivals in New England, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. As she followed the girl shows from town to town, she portrayed the dancers on stage and off, photographing their public performances as well as their private lives. She also taped interviews with the dancers, their boyfriends, the show managers, and paying customers. Meiselas's frank description of the lives of these women brought a hidden world to public attention. Produced during the early years of the women's movement, Carnival Strippers reflects the struggle for identity and self-esteem that characterized a complex era of change. This revised edition contains a new selection of Meiselas's black-and-white photographs together with the original interview excerpts. Additionally, an audio CD featuring a collage of participants' voices and a 1977 interview with the photographer are included. Essays by Sylvia Wolf and Deirdre English reflect on the importance of this body of work within the history of photography and the history of feminism.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   164
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 10.75" Height: 9.25"
Weight:   2.7 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 2, 2003
Publisher   Steidl
ISBN  3882439548  
ISBN13  9783882439540  

Availability  0 units.

More About Susan Meiselas, Sylvia Wolf & Deirdre English

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! "Susan Meiselas is an award-winning documentary photographer represented by Magnum and best-known for her work in Central America. Her photographs have appeared worldwide in the pages of Time, the New York Times,Paris Match and Life, among others. A 1992 MacArthur fellow, Meiselas has edited a number of books, including Learn to See, Chile from Within and Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, and has published the photographic books Pandora's Box and Carnival Strippers. Encounters with the Dani accompanies her multimedia installation for the 2003 ICP Triennial of Photography and Video: Strangers."

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > Collections, Catalogues & Exhibitions
2Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > General
3Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > Photo Essays
4Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > Photographers, A-Z > General
5Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > Portraits

Reviews - What do customers think about Susan Meiselas: Carnival Strippers?

Carnival Strippers  Jan 10, 2007
I remember the carnivals, but I was too young for the side-shows (some of them, anyway), and the book, with very good pictures, is an outstanding coverage of the genre. The book includes interviews with performers and patrons, to give you the flavor of the world you are reading about.
They strip to please, not to tease...  Sep 15, 2006
Frankly this book is incredible. I'm a carnival performer and history buff and in my opinion it's always been a tragedy that carnivals of yesteryear are remembered now almost entirely for the sideshows. Rides, games, spook houses and sex were all part of the classic carnival allure; this book is dedicated to the latter and portrays the Girlshow at it's best and most real.

Most impressive to me was the fact the author says almost nothing of her own opinions or ideas regarding the girls, the talkers or the lifestyle. Instead the reader is simply treated to the text of her interviews and therefore only the ideas of the people who performed and in some cases the people that watched.

As performer I was especially pleased to read in it's entirety an original Girlshow "talk" or "bally" at the front of the book, and I love the unabashed and often casual photos taken back stage, all of witch give one an insiders sense of what it must have been like in the glory days.
Documentary photography at its best  Apr 6, 2005
As a small kid, I was always fascinated by the carnival strippers and the forbidden world behind the platform. Finally, these pictures outline what that world was like for those women who danced. No, the pictures aren't pretty, but realistic and honest. I came away from these pics with more respect for the kind of work that these ladies did. The world of the carnival stripper is gone, but these wonderful and gritty pictures allow us one more intimate look at an all but forgotten time period.
Carnival Strippers  Oct 28, 2003
"Carnival Strippers" is a photographic documentary of the carnival strip shows that flourished in county fairs in small-town New England through the late 1970s. The book consists of photographs of the strippers, the managers, callers, and barkers who run the shows, and their customers, or "marks".

The book first appeared in 1976 and his long been out-of-print. The photographer, Susan Meiselas, was at the time a young woman just out of graduate school. She spent the summers of 1972 -- 1975 following the carnivals and in getting to know the women to photograph them and their environs. She at first offered her photographs and interviews to various feminist publications who turned them down.

Meiselas subsequently went on to a distinguished career as a documentary photographer working extensively in Central America and Kurdistan. In 1992, Meiselas was named a MacArthur fellow.

"Carnival Strippers" received attention upon its initial publication for its frank, but nonjudgmental portrayal of its tawdry subject. The book was made into two plays before it, like the carnival strip shows themselves disappeared from attention. Then, in 2000, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City featured a retrospective of the photographs. The Whitney Museum published this second edition of "Carnival Strippers" in 2003 with Sylvia Wolf, curator of photography at the Museum contributing an essay. Deidre English of the Graduate School of Photojournalism at the University of California at Berkeley has also written an essay for the book.

In the 2003 edition, 16 new photographs are added from Meiselas's source materials and 13 photographs that appeared in the 1976 edition are deleted, making a total of 76 photographs in the book. The new edition is also rearranged from the initial text. There are two sections of photographs, the first called "the girl show" and the second called "portraits". The essays by Wolf and English draw parallels between Meiselas's work and the work of Brassi's 1930 photos of Paris prostitutes, as well as with the work of contemporary photographers such as Diane Arbus. To me the strongest parallel is Belloq's collection of photographs of prostitutes in Storyville, New Orleans dating from the turn of the century.

In the grainy black-and-white photographs of the life of the carnival strip shows, we meet the women and the barkers on the front stage called a "bally" enticing the men to enter the show. For a price of $2 or $3, the show consisted of four or five women each dancing naked to, generally, a single 45 rpm record. The book shows photos of the girls at work to crowds of leering men. The world of the "girl shows" was competitive and nasty.... We see the girls off-stage in dressing rooms and in private moments reflecting on their lives. There are extensive interviews with the strippers, the managers and barkers and the patrons. The book also comes with a CD featuring the sounds of the strip shows, interviews with the girls, and a 1997 interview with Susan Meiselas.

The book paints the picture of a low, tawdry life with mutual exploitation between the girls, their managers, and the patrons. Yet it is a way of life not without its fascination. It is a life of poor, mostly ignorant, and exploited women, but also a life based upon the rejection of convention and upon attempts to attain independence. Meiselas clearly became taken with the strippers, their attempt at independence, their eccentricities, their vulnerability, and their vulgarity. For Meiselas and her subjects, Carnival life is something that gets in the person, making it hard to leave when one has been exposed. I found the life of these now gone carnivals and girl shows got inside me as well in reading this book.

The women in this book are not beautiful, air-brushed models and the book has little to offer in the way of titillation. Meiselas tries to show the viewer and the reader the carnival life for what it was. The book shows a dark corner of the eternal theme of sexuality and love between men and women in all its difficulty and ambiguity....


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