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Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,113 ratings  ·  132 reviews
Fresh out of college and passionate about photography, Deborah Copaken Kogan moved to Paris in 1988 and began knocking on photo agency doors, begging to be given a photojournalism assignment. Within weeks she was on the back of a truck in Afghanistan, the only woman—and the only journalist—in a convoy of mujahideen, the rebel “freedom fighters” at the time. She had travele ...more
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Published (first published 2001)
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I would like to submit this as Exhibit A for the failure of traditional publishing to redress issues of sexism, not to mention shooting itself in its stupid foot and being appallingly condescending to one of its strongest demographics.

I mean, first I'd like to read the book.

But I believe this paragraph from the author's incredible (and incredibly enraging) recent piece on the Nation should stand by itself to support my case:

It's 1999. I sell my first book to Random House, a memo
I've added a new shelf in honor of this book, whose name was changed despite the author's objections. From "newswhore" to "shutterbabe" is definitely a step in the chick-ification.
Cheesy title, I know. And in the first two pages, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue, so loud were the author's claims on feminism. (She starts out on the back of a truck in Afghanistan, in the male dominated 1980's world of photojournalism, lamenting her lack of tampons). But stick with it, I swear it's worth it.

The truth is, photojournalism really was a boys' club, and I doubt I'd have understood the extent of it without reading this book. But it's not entirely the main focus of the book,
look past the stupid title and the simplistic "i'm-a-feminist-because-i-have-lots-of-sex-like-a-man" argument, and there's a really interesting account of the photojournalist process here.

for any woman (or man) who has fantasized about covering jihadists in afghanistan, guerilla wars, coups, or other major world issues with your camera. really for anyone who would like an exciting, dangerous, travel-filled life.
Carol Surges
If you enjoy vicariously living a life of adventure, this book may be for you. The memories of a thrill seeking photojournalist, fresh out of school and anxious to make a name for herself, are often harrowing tales of near misses and last minute rescues both at the battle front and in the bedroom. Working in the competitive male dominated world of photojournalism requires her to take risks and witness events that no one should. Her close encounters with world events from the late '80s and early ...more
Deborah Copaken Kogan graduated from Harvard in 1988 and plunged straight into the world of photojournalism. Like most fresh grads, reality is something college doesn� t prepare you for.[return][return]Living in Paris, she knocked on agency doors for an assignment. Within weeks, she was in Afghanistan with Pascal, a more senior photojournalist who promised that he would help get her into the thick of the war.[return][return]The book opens with her travelling in a group of mujahideen - rebel "fre ...more
Rebecca Burrell
As I was reading, there was a period of time near the beginning when I really wanted to take the author and shake some sense into her, to the point where I nearly put the book down, but I'm glad I didn't - a very human portrait began to emerge shortly thereafter. Her experiences from then on really stuck with me, from witnessing the inhuman conditions in Romanian orphanage to dealing with the otherwise-unremarkable execution of a poacher in Africa. Her incidental lovers became consequential and ...more
This is an autobiography of a short, female photojournalist working in a man's world. I liked it because I once had similar aspirations (and am vertical challenged), but did not have the courage or self-belief of Deborah Copaken Kogan. So the majority of the book provided fascinating "what ifs" for me. Then, she discovers the struggle to balance career and motherhood, which is universal these days. This seemed a bit self-indulgent and ordinary... like looking at pictures of a stranger's child. T ...more
Jill Sansone
One of the best things about reading is immersion in situations one would never experience. Since I am a natural coward and would never think "I am now a college graduate and need to see the world by jumping into a war zone as a photojournalist," Kogan's book offers a rich glimpse into exactly that world, from the mujahideen in Afghanistan to the 1991 near coup in Moscow (with Kogan climbing to the top of a tank for a better view of the confrontation between police and protesters). I hate the ti ...more
Fun to read about the adventures of this "tiny girl" (her description) in an all male world (war, war, war), but the voice gets grating. I was rolling my eyes after she'd slept with/fallen in love with the 10th guy and we were only 1/2 way through the book.
Shutterbabe is a fun, interesting book and I loved the way the author wove in professional experiences across the globe with personal struggles.

The book's organization, each chapter named after an important man in the author's life, is an interesting twist. But I was left feeling as though the author allows her life to be defined by the men in it. She touts feminism and tries to come off like a strong female character, but she definitely has some flaws (don't we all).

At times, it felt a little
Marie desJardins
This is a memoir of a young woman who becomes a war photographer without really knowing what she's getting into. She's a bit wild, looking for adventure, and in a *very* male-dominated world, working in *very* male-dominated countries. I liked parts of the beginning of the book, just because her experiences were so unusual and her perspective was so interesting. But it gradually fell apart for me towards the second half, when she basically renounces her youthful follies and settles down to be a ...more
Vanessa Willmore
This was a great book, and as another Shutterbabe, I really enjoyed reading this memoir. There were a few things that I disagreed with, but can still understand and sympathise. One thing that really bugged me about this book was how much of a feminist the author claimed to be, and yet wrote the book around her experiences with ex lovers. Honestly, even though it sometimes hurts, and there are those worse times where it REALLY Freakin' hurts, you must put it behind you, and leave it be. Though th ...more
The author wrote an autobiographical account of her short-but-intense career in war photojournalism. Her method in writing about each war/battle/military clash is told by way of who she was sleeping with at the time.

Overall, she tells a good story. What I did not like was her "Look what I went through in my life and I survived..." knowing that thousands of others have not. She discusses survivor guilt by "having bad dreams" and "feeling bad."

First of all, in discussing her escapes from many a sc
Shutterbabe is a grittier version of Eat, Pray, Love, which I enjoyed greatly. Deborah is a certified bad-ass. She left suburbia and Harvard at the age of 22 to become one of the first female photojournalists. She traveled by herself with the Mujhadeen in Afghanistan during the Soviet war, covered the fall of the Soviet Union, and other wars and events. She is repeatedly assaulted (occasionally sexually), threatened, seduced and shot at, and yet she keeps going back in the field, often with grea ...more
I actually enjoyed Shutterbabe. I thought her nickname for herself was actually cute. Some comments have focused on disliking how the author wrote about her love/bed interests too much and her leaving photography in the end as a knock against feminism that some felt like she harped about.

For me however, the title says its all-- Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War. As someone who knows next to nothing about the technical aspects of photography, this book gave me some new basic knowledge abou
Deborah Copaken-Kogan unflinchingly puts herself in harm’s way to show that she can do whatever a man can and in the process confirms that violence against women and sexism are alive and well across the globe. She tells the story with the kind of courage, intelligence and self deprecation that makes for a moving, at times laugh-out-loud read, and ends with a greater understanding and appreciation of what’s important (love, mostly). It’s a romance, it’s a coming of age story, it’s inspiring for i ...more
Lisa Findley
At age 22, Deborah Copaken is an impressively accomplished Harvard grad snapping war photos and alternately trying to break into the boys' club of war photographers and stumble into the beds of those same boys. She makes some really stupid decisions, and some men treat her really badly, and unfortunately, she seems to assume more cause and effect in that than I'd like (ie, she notes that she has received far more abuse than she ever "asked for," but she still seems to consider it possible to "as ...more
I try to avoid the kind of book about the typical young woman growing up in turmoil as I read one too many of them in high school and slowly realized that after you've read one or two, they are really all the same.

I think this book carries a certain element of that but it only starts there and I enjoyed that it took the story a few steps beyond that. The author's voice is much more mature and the storyline takes the reader into truly thoughtful experiences as you follow the author through her ad
From Zimbabwe to Romania, from Russia to Haiti, Kogan takes her readers on a journey through a mine-strewn decade, seamlessly blending her personal battles—sexism, battery, life-threatening danger—with the historical ones—wars, revolution, unfathomable suffering—it was her job to record. Interesting book.
I picked up this book right before going on Study Abroad to the UK and Ireland my sophomore year of college. I read it on the plane and throughout my time in London, and it was definitely a life-changing book. Not only did it prepare me for meeting my photojournalist "mentor" (he was the picture of her descriptions...), but it gave me a look into that world and what it takes to survive. This book was funny, very interesting, and just an entertaining (and even emotional at times) read. And amazin ...more
This autobiography is a must-read for any woman working in a predominately male industry. It's filled with triumphs and failures similar to any woman climbing the ladder to a successful career.

She opens the book by describing how one of her traveling companions has sat on her bookbag (filled with camera equipment) squashing a bottle of rubbing alcohol which in turn expands and explodes all of her tampons... All while crouched - in a burka from head to toe - in the back of a truck in the middle
I had read another novel by this author. I enjoy - or perhaps identify with - her characters, who are smart and diverse women somewhere in my checkbox range. This book follows a photojournalist, based in Paris, in the early- to mid-point of her career, which covers conflict and societal dysfunction. The story speaks to some of the humanitarian disasters of the past thirty years, as well as to the protagonist's somewhat non-traditional personal life and relationships.
This book made the rounds at photography school. All the prim and prudish people with whom I worked thought it was terrible because it is basically about a women who uses sex to help her career in photojournalism. I found this a bit parochial and towny. It seemed like none of these people understood that this woman was taking advantage of her ability to manipulate men and get ahead any way she could. The double standard was staggering. Not one of them had a bad word to say about the men who slep ...more
It's been half an hour since I finished this book, and I've been slowly and painfully discovering that you can't review a life.

So I'll keep this short. DCK has seen horrible sights and done wonderful things; she's made bad choices and lucky mistakes; she's struggled - a lot. And somehow, she managed to share this absurd, rich existence in a way that made me live what she lived and shed a tear for what the world has been through and I didn't know about.

Out of three memoirs I've read before this -
What I like most about this is about a person who decides she wants to do something and just goes and does it. She doesn't need a company to send her, an organization to sponsor her, or a "program", she needs exactly what she already has: initiative, common sense and courage. It's not as hard as people usually think it is, and I really believe this is true about a lot of things.

I read it a while ago, and it's great that different people can read it and take away different things. I have to say I
An amazing and sometimes shocking read. Affirmed my decision of not pursuing journalistic photography for a lot of the hardships and hypocrisy one has to endure in a job, which I know would not make me happy. I do believe that all young women should read this book as means of making them aware of the double standards that are present in the modern world for women. Not to make them frighten, but to empower them to be prepared to take on the challenges that await them. Deborah has lived an amazing ...more
The parts I enjoyed the most where probably her own comments on the photojournalism industry. However, this is a definitely a story of the author's life though at times somewhat disjointed feeling. She certainly highlights the best or rather, most memorable, experiences of her life that brought her to where she is now. Her honesty is greatly appreciated. She does not try to save the world through pictures and she admits her own selfish gains. Her tenacity is astounding and admirable and while it ...more
Margaret Dillon
Kogan writes vividly about life behind the camera of a photojournalist. In an almost exclusive male domaine, she tries to be just one of the guys, and jumps from one lover to another as her male colleagues do, until at last she finds true love and motherhood and settles for a safer but less colorful life.
I loved this book in college. It spoke to me, Kogen was my spirit animal, etc. (Except for running headlong into wars. I only wished I had those balls.) I hadn't read it in over ten years and was very curious how it would translate from slutty 20-year-old college sophomore to 31-year-old mama. Turns out...I still get it. And I almost get it more. I could see all the layers of the author's looking back and understand a whole other level. I was very glad to have reread it, though I had to skip the ...more
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“I loved to press the shutter, to freeze time, to turn little slices of life into rectangle rife with metaphor.” 1 likes
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