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Eight Girls Taking Pictures

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  1,207 Ratings  ·  278 Reviews
From the bestselling author of How to Make an American Quilt comes a powerful and sweeping novel inspired by the lives of famous female photographers.

Bestselling author Whitney Otto’ s Eight Girls Taking Pictures i s a profoundly moving portrayal of the lives of women, imagining the thoughts and circumstances that produced eight famous female photographers of the twentiet
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2012)
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Dec 27, 2012 Kate rated it it was ok
I confess that I shorten unfamiliar proper nouns when I read a book. I didn't try to phonetically read "Naakkve" each time I come across that name in Kristin Lavransdatter - I just accept it as that block of letters and move on. "Anna Karenina" becomes either "Kareninininina" or "Karena" or "Anna K" while I am reading the pages to myself. I blame third grade speed reading drills.

There were not a lot of unfamiliar proper nouns that I needed to breeze past in Eight Girls Taking Pictures, but there
Jan 30, 2013 Chris rated it liked it
I have really conflicted feelings about this book. I enjoyed it, and yet it wasn't what I wanted or expected. It is broken up into 8 "short stories" about women photographers in history, and it is based on real women but fictionalized. I love historical fiction, but this is not that, and I found it frustrating. I found myself wanting to know, needing to know who the real life woman was and then actually scoffed at the changed names to some of the other historical people -- Tin Type instead of Ma ...more
Feb 17, 2013 Beth rated it it was amazing
Whitney Otto has done her homework. Not only does she beautifully capture the history of photography, the details of the art, and the social contexts of her eight ‘girls’ over time, she has provided a thoughtful meditation on the role of women in history as well as the role women play in their own lives. While the struggles remain constant in scope, each of Otto’s photographers approaches her conflicts in a different way, creating a kind of literary canvas for the intersections between life, lov ...more
Red Ferry
Aug 12, 2012 Red Ferry rated it it was amazing
I loved this novel, each chapter exploring the life of a different woman photographer. Inspired by actual photographers but reimagined by this talented author. The stories take place at different times, with some overlap (late 1900's, 1920's, '30s, '50's, 1980's, so that some characters actually meet, while others discover earlier photographer's work while pursuing their own. Some fabulous references here that I'd never heard of: Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, Bomarzo Garden of Monsters. ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Kerry rated it did not like it
I very rarely choose not to finish a book, but in the case of "Eight Girls Taking Pictures", about half way through the book I decided not to waste any more of my time on it. There just seemed to be no point - or maybe I was just missing the point. Each section of the book somewhat described the life of a different female photographer - but other than the location, they all seemed interchangeable. Additionally, I never felt any connection with any of the characters - it became almost a chore to ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Courtney rated it really liked it
"Eight Girls Taking Pictures: A Novel" is none of the things you might expect from the title. Rather than a novel, it's actually a collection of eight short stories, some novella length. And while there are eight stories about women photographers, at least one of those stories features two women, so I count at least nine girls taking pictures.

That nitpicking aside, it's a wonderful book. Author Whitney Otto explores the ways women's lives and opportunities changed and the ways they stayed the sa
Dec 03, 2012 Mairi rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, arc
This was neither the book I expected, nor really the one I wanted. I went into it hoping for uplifting, empowering, some success in the face of adversity wrapped up in photo jargon and a vivid description or two or twenty. What I got was the same story told over and over again in different cities and in different time periods: Girl has progressive parents, girl takes up photography, girl eventually settles down and gives up or otherwise hamstrings her art for her male love interest and we get to ...more
Nov 15, 2012 Ab rated it it was ok
This book had lots of potential, I thought ... photography through the ages, across the world, through the female artist's eye ... and it did all this, sure, but really every woman's story was how her life was affected/changed/thwarted/overpowered/distracted/overshadowed, etc. by romantic entanglements with men. Men men men. Men were the photographers, women assisted, or modeled. Men worked, women photographers ultimately resigned themselves to marriage, kids, and "hobby" photography, maybe. So ...more
Mar 09, 2013 Kristin rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book so badly – both my husband and one of my best friends each saw it separately and thought of me. It was a fictional account of female photographers from 1910 through the late '80s and how their art intersected with their home lives, etc. Many of the stories took place in San Francisco. It should have been amazing and right up my alley. But I feel like it should have been called "Depressing Sex and Cameras." Seriously. Or an alternate title, "Your Life Ends When You Have ...more
Jul 11, 2013 Adriana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Obligatory mention: I got my copy thru First-Reads.
That said - this is one well written novel!
A wonderfully thought out story that explores both the history of photography, the evolution of women’s rights and world history thru compelling stories.
The topics discussed are as diverse as the women the stories follow: homosexuality, Nazi Germany, the horrors of war, marriage inequality, gossip, youth, freedom, dreams, responsibility, young love, and so much more.
Of particular interest to me was ho
Feb 16, 2013 Melissa rated it it was ok
I should have loved this book: I studied photography and art history. I just couldn't get into it. It felt less like a novel and more like a college student's first attempt at a collection of historical short stories. Facts about whatever areas/periods were being covered were thrown in, often interrupting the flow of prose and creating a sense the author was trying to show off her breadth of research. Good historical fiction writers weave the facts in so they color the story, not footnote it. Th ...more
Simone Benedict
Jul 11, 2013 Simone Benedict rated it it was amazing
After reading Eight Girls, I'm kicking myself for missing out on Whitney Otto's previous works. As a literary work, this novel is delightful in its construction.

The joy I found in reading Eight Girls was not only through the eight separate vignettes, but also in considering the conceptual glues, of sorts, connecting them over time and their separate lives. On the one hand, all people make these sort of connections with their past memories in order to form a story of who they are. On the other,
Nov 24, 2012 guiltlessreader rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catherine Stickann
Jul 15, 2013 Catherine Stickann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Keturah Stickann
I won this delightful read on Goodreads First Read. Thank you to the author and publisher for sending it to me. I try to give all books I review a fair and impartial read.

Full of wonderful quotes like the ones below, this book delights the reader throughout.

"No one really survived the Great War. No person, no place. It was too far-reaching , too catastrophic, too unimaginable." pg. 64

" . . . but the small American towns lagged years behind. In some of those towns it wasn't 1967, it was 1957 and
Rebecca McNutt
Ever since my mom bought me a super 8 home movie camera, a Brownie box camera and two old Kodak Instamatics, I've been going through this phase (obsession) with the history, superiority and nostalgia of film. I'll admit that it was the cover of this book with the vintage camera that drew me to it, but the story, featuring women with a vibrant passion for photography in the early 1900's, was even more brilliant. It was beautifully written and vivid, filled with gripping imagery and creativity. Th ...more
Jan 03, 2013 Dina rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but some of the stories seemed rushed & misplaced. I also thought that more of the stories were going to intertwine. It only seems like Cymbeline Kelly was a recurring character. One of the stories that I loved left me with so many unanswered questions. I wasn't sure what happened next. Overall it was good, but not the best that I've read.
Jan Priddy
Feb 18, 2016 Jan Priddy rated it did not like it
I have tried three times to read this book and I cannot. There are the sentences that no verb. There are historical details. There is the reason I want to love it because it is about early photographers.

Other readers must love it. I only wish I could.
Jan 20, 2015 Rachael rated it did not like it
This review contains some minor spoilers. I admit that I only made it to page 113 of this book before giving up. I really really tried to love this's been on my TBR list for ages (since before it was first released) and I finally wound up purchasing a copy recently. I went into this book thinking (based on the synopsis on the back cover) that I would be reading a story/stories about female photographers and all the trials and tribulations they face in life as they pursue(d) their passi ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Lea rated it liked it
If you are a Whitney Otto fan, I would recommend this, with the tip to just read it, don't read the reviews, don't get a preconceived notion of what the book is about, just read it because you enjoy her writing.
With that said, here's my review...
For me, I felt this book, at least the first five (of eight) short stories was more about sexuality than photography; the girls were all described as androgynous. There was more focus on their affairs and sexual relationships and lack of "normal" sexual
Lolly K Dandeneau
Oct 18, 2012 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it liked it
Liked it but... I read a review someone wrote where they said though the stories were good, she was unable to care about the characters. My experience was the same in that I didn't feel much for any of the women. It was a strange read because I did find the stories interesting, well written- but I didn't like them or feel they were alive. I can't really express my tangled feelings about this novel- it really is a weird feeling. The key moments in history and the effects they had on each woman mo ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Jesse rated it it was ok
Perhaps if I had noticed this authors previous works I would not have picked this one up, shows that I do not entirely read the front cover when I pick out books. Otto also wrote How to Make an American Quilt.
The writing in my opinion was lacking. There is nothing that hooked me into reading farther into the text than I got. The stories felt too repetitive after the first three. The women in focus are all dealing with too similar issues and maybe that is the point of the text. Professionalism vs
Sep 24, 2014 Juliet-Camille rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
It's not so much that I couldn't get into this, I just couldn't stand how boring it was.

the only reason I picked this one up was because it described a woman named Cymbeline (The Shakespeare play of the same name is one of my personal favorites.) But I was unable to connect with any of the characters and their actions and motivations didn't make sense. It felt too much like woman abandoning their selfhood for the men in their lives, and also just behaving stupidly (view spoiler)
Susan Conklin
Jan 13, 2014 Susan Conklin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-2014
I loved this book for very personal reasons, my father was a photographer and owned a photo business, my brother, a photographers gave it to me, I am a photographer and I own a cheaper version of the camera on the cover. Besides that, I loved the premise of taking 8 girls and connecting them each with a camera and with the first girl, a fictitious professional photographer of the early part of the 20th century. There is a thread there, but each story could stand on its own, eight short stories l ...more
Sep 28, 2013 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I was irritated by this book. Too much research, not enough character development. And the women all seemed to have a father fetish.. there was a sameness to them, no matter what time period they lived in. I finally gave up halfway through.

In contrast, I would highly recommend MOMENTS CAPTURED by Robert Seidman or SHORT NIGHTS OF THE SHADOW CATCHER by Timothy Egan. The first is roughly based on the life of Edward Muybridge and the second tells the story of Edward Curtis, the remarkable, turn of
Jul 25, 2013 Jude rated it it was ok
I wanted to love this book. I tried to love this book. I didn't even finish reading this book. I gave up about 2/3rds of the way through it. I love historical fiction, and I love photography, so I thought this would be a great read for me... but it was hard to truly understand the characters, and get to the point where I wanted to know more about them. I felt like I was reading articles in a magazine, or a long book report on a biography. I have given myself permission to stop reading any book I ...more
Kim Ayre
Sep 07, 2013 Kim Ayre rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book and the richness of the characters; the female characters have wonderfully independent minds. Yet the book didn't captivate me. I read it consistently, but only in small doses so it took me a long time to finish. The experience of the reading the book was one of reading the autobiographies of female photographers, which I loved, but the stories didn't have the color, sound and smell that pulls a reader into a character's life. I would recommend it, however, to all female 19-25 ...more
Kate Gardiner
Jan 15, 2013 Kate Gardiner rated it really liked it
Am in love with this book! All of my female photography friends will connect with a lot of the experiences the women go through. But I think male photographers will appreciate the photo history. This is definitely a book that should be judged by its cover. Great artwork! The only thing keeping me from giving it 5 stars is the fact that it is 8 separate stories that get referred back to. Had a hard time keeping everyone straight and had to keep flipping back. Could just be the fact I can only sta ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Cathy rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this collection of short stories about women photographers throughout the 20th century. Each one of the "eight girls" is an interesting character, driven by their talent and desire to take photographs and challenged by the difficulty of integrating their profession with husbands, lovers, and children. I really liked how each woman's story revealed a different era, beginning in 1917 and concluding in the early 1990s, and that each short story was set in a different location, includ ...more
3 1/2

I'll have more thoughts later (probably in a blog post) but this is the sort of book that in addition to making one think about feminism, the role of women, the relationship between women and art, and art in general, is the sort that makes me want to buy a beautiful old camera and build a dark room in which to develop and create photos of my own.

EDIT: And...posted!
Oct 25, 2012 Edith rated it really liked it
Won this book on a goodreads giveaway. And I knew I would loved it. It's a collection of stories about female photographers. I loved the subtle links between them. Major theme of the stories is the conflict between motherhood and having a career, the need to create.
It's inevitable with that type of book, some stories were better than others. Some stories were fictional history of real women photographers (names were changed). It sparked my interest to learn more about those women.
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Whitney Otto is the bestselling author of How to Make an American Quilt (which was made into a feature film), Now You See Her, and The Passion Dream Book. A native of California, she lives with her husband and son in Portland, Oregon.
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“While she was in transit, being unattached was exhilarating, but the moment she stopped, so did the high.” 22 likes
“I never think anyone in love is foolish. We do the best we can.” 5 likes
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