Donna Ferrato’s Holy is a celebration of women, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders-at-birth, made over several decades and on many continents, and I’m privileged to have a signed copy.
I most definitely filmed an unboxing, as I (almost) always do… or did, when I was still buying photobooks. Alas, the book is most definitely NSFW and WordPress refuses to embed it…. So click through and watch at your own risk.
NSFW though it may be, Holy is triumphant, celebratory, in-your-face, and wholly unapologetic. I find nothing particularly prurient about it, and don’t blame you if you do. To each, their own, within reason. I think Holy is important and it arrived at an appropriate time in American history, right in the midst of #metoo and just a couple of years before the Supreme Court largely ended women’s right to choose and neutered a bunch of rights that Americans had for my whole life. Sitting here in 2023 as I do, it seems that #metoo has been largely forgotten and that the backlash is in full swing, and I for one seek forgiveness from God and ask Him (sic) to guide me, us, the U.S., and all of us to justice and compassion, and may He (sic) have mercy on us.
Holy collects work from 50-odd years of Ferrato’s storied career working for magazine and newspapers, and producing books and various other publications on nightclubs and swingers groups and the like. These ongoing projects led, in part, to her work on domestic violence, for which she received many awards and commendations. Throughout, she focuses on women: what they get up to, and where, how, and with whom they get up to whatever it was. Each photograph in Holy—and they come page after page, punctuated only by the chapter headings “Mother,” “Daughter,” and “Others”—features a short description in what I assume is Ferraro’s hand. And the stories are moving and important and unique, and here I must share a weakness that I share with many other people of my gender…
Early on in the book, early in the “Mother” chapter, largely focused on Ferrato’s images of survivors of domestic violence, after about 3 or 4 pages of images with stories of how poorly men treat women, I had a strong desire to put the book down. As a man who has never thrown a punch at anyone, never raised his voice to a significant other, and has made it to nearly 10 years of marriage with only saying something cross to my darling wife on two deeply regrettable occasions, I struggle to suppress the silly and superficial claim of “not all men.” I recognize this weakness in my self and I ask God to guide me to better respect for women, and to be better at calling out the bad behavior of my brothers. In my book, there is never a good reason batter someone smaller and weaker than you are, regardless of gender, and if you, dear reader, have occasion to raise your fists to a significant other, to a child, to an elder, to anyone over whom you have power, then I ask God to guide you, and beg you to seek help.
I kept on with the book, and I’m glad I did. The lifestyles and situations Ferrato photographed aren’t my own, are far out of my experience and social/religious mores on many levels, and I’m richer for having spent time with Holy.
Overall, I rate Holy a recommended 4.5 stars.
At time of writing (mid-January, 2022), first edition copies of Holy are available direct from Ferrato’s website, and if you hunt around, signed copies (that may also be personalized, as mine is) are also available. Do yourself a favor and at least visit the site. Ferrato’s work is excellent and important, and we could all learn something from it, especially silly, superficial men like me.