Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 4, No. 4, Winter 1992.

Cover of Stolen GlancesStolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs. Edited by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser. Pandora Press/Harper Collins, 1991. Paper. $23.00 (ISBN 0-04-440707)

Fedoras off to the Arts Council of Great Britain for financially supporting this book and its accompanying touring photography exhibition. Our National Endowments for the Arts wouldn’t allow over its threshold a project that included titles such as: “Dirty Girl’s Guide to London,” “Butch/Fern Picnic,” or “James Dean: The Almost Perfect Lesbian Hermaphrodite.” In outright rebellion against Britain’s repressive law against promoting homosexuality, this book does just that, in ways both imaginative and scholarly.

The subject is lesbian photography, but not the documentary, lets-show-how-lesbians-live-type exemplified in JEB’s Eye to Eye. These manipulated, staged photos attempt to subvert mainstream, heterosexual imagery and,once changed, make it ours. The photos are accompanied by 29 critical essays appealing to those readers intrigued by the latest feminist art theory. They relate lesbian photography to issues of race, male homosexuality, lesbian identity, families, AIDS, and lesbian desire. All assume some familiarity with current lesbian debate on pornography, sexuality, and cultural representation.

The contributors are evenly divided between American and British lesbians, the most familiar on this side of the pond being Tee Corinne. My personal favorites were Deborah Bright’s photos in which the photographer pasted her dykey figure into famous movie stills, creating such lesbian fantasies as looking into Kate Hepburn’s eyes, or laughing with Vanessa Redgrave in bed, or gazing at Glenda Jackson while George Segal gets left out.

This sturdy, paperbound, attractively laid-out book has footnotes, a good one-page bibliography, biographical notes and a useful index. I heartily recommend this book to any library able to encompass photos of nude lesbians in their collection.

Reviewed by Kathy Ruffle
College of New Caledonia Library
Prince George, B.C.

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