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by Vince Aletti
Aperture, 1999
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Oct 16th 2001

Malefemale105 photographs chosen by staff at Aperture Magazine (or maybe just Vince Aletti -- it's not quite clear) on the theme of gender. There are some wonderful images here. But what possessed the publisher to ask Vince Aletti to write an introduction and do an interview with Madonna is beyond me. Presumably Madonna fans may be interested in what she has to say, but she has nothing interesting to say to anyone else. Of course, she is an artist in her own rite, as a performer whose work has thematized issues of gender, and she published her book of photographs, Sex, to little critical acclaim. She is rich and sponsors the work of female photographers. She is not brain dead. But she doesn't have anything interesting to say about gender or photography in this interview.

Maybe it was the drugs. She had just been under gas at the dentist, before the interview. Maybe that was a clue that it wasn't a good time to do an interview. Maybe it was the interviewer. A former music critic, he is, or at least was in 1999, the photo critic of the Village Voice. He writes a couple of pages as an introduction to the book, but they are of no consequence. There's an extremely self-indulgent piece listing 200 women by Wayne Koestenbaum. Don't bother with it.

So, of course, the pictures must speak for themselves. The first half are men, the second half are women. There's a few familiar faces -- rock stars, politicians, celebrity figures, and several well-known photographs. There are probably more from the 1990s than any other decade, and the earliest images are from the 1920s. There's Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plachy, Robert Mapplethorpe, Herb Ritts, and many more lesser known and just as interesting photographers represented here.

The arrangement of photographs seems random, as does the choice. It's a bunch of images carelessly thrown together in a coffee-table book. It's fun to browse these images, and if you want to learn the names of some interesting photographers, you could probably do so by taking notes when looking at this book. That's the best use I can think of for Malefemale.

This review first appeared online Sept 1, 2001


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