Girl Pictures was Charcoal Book Club’s photobook of the month for July, 2020… As a long time Kurland fan, at least since I laid eyes on Highway Kind, I preordered a signed copy from Aperture as soon as it was announced, so I contacted Charcoal and traded Girl Pictures for George Georgioiu’s Americans Parade. This is one of the perks of Charcoal membership: if you already have (or just don’t want) a particular book, just email them and say “please swap xxxx for yyyy” (where ‘xxxx’ is the just-announced photobook-of-the-month and ‘yyyy’ is any book in stock in Charcoal’s store) and it’s no problem. They’ll often even include the card and print from the book you declined.* I’m a big fan of Charcoal and what they’re doing.
But this isn’t a review of Charcoal…
To be honest, I struggled mightily with this review, and in the end I’ve largely given up.
Real journalism and review sites have competent reviewers for books like this. See, for example, LensCulture, Vice, Hyperallergic, and the New York Times, who all see power and strength, a reclamation of narrative, beauty and freedom, a utopia of mutual aid and joy free of men and boys. Erin Vanderhoof, writing in Vanity Fair complicates it slightly, and, really, Girl Pictures is something that a fat, balding, middle aged white man really has no business reviewing… or even looking at, really.
Kurland speaks more about it at anothermag and you can read her afterword for the book at Aperture. These point towards my discomfort with the whole thing, which I won’t get into here, because, really, it’s none of my business. I’m just going to shelve the book next to Highway Kind and get on with my day.
Copies remain available and you can find the book all over. The pictures really are very well made, and the utopia they present is joyous and free. Rebecca Bengal’s introduction is well written and a fun read, and Girl Pictures really is a good book. It’s just that I have no business writing about it.
*Each book comes with a little note from the curator and a small print from the photographer.