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“Jennette Williams’s photographs of women bathing portray the female form, but they transcend simple representation to speak powerfully about women’s own private sense of identity and beauty. It doesn’t matter that these bodies are not conventionally ideal—when these women are in front of Jennette’s camera, they are proud to reveal their full femininity. . . Jennette is both an excellent documentary photographer and a superb portraitist, a rare combination.”—Mary Ellen Mark
Jennette Williams’s stunning platinum prints of women bathers in Budapest and Istanbul take us inside spaces intimate and public, austere and sensuous, filled with water, steam, tile, stone, ethereal sunlight, and earthly flesh. Over a period of eight years, Williams, who is based in New York City, traveled to Hungary and Turkey to photograph, without sentimentality or objectification, women daring enough to stand naked before her camera. Young and old, the women of The Bathers inhabit and display their bodies with comfort and ease—floating, showering, conversing, lost in reverie.
Working in steam-filled environments, Williams created quiet, dignified images that not only invoke canonical representations of female nudes but also early pictorial photography. At the same time, they raise contemporary questions about the gaze, the definition of documentary photography, and the representation and perception of beauty and femininity, particularly as they relate to the aging body. Above all else, her photos are sensuously evocative. They invite the viewer to feel the steam, hear the murmur of conversation, and to reflect on the allure of the female form.
The Bathers has been widely reviewed and was featured in the New Yorker, Photo District News, and in a Daylight Magazine podcast.
Jennette Williams talks about making the photographs for The Bathers at her exhibit opening and book launch, with an introduction by CDS director Tom Rankin
To read reviews of The Bathers, visit PRESS
The Bathers by Jennette Williams
Published by Duke University Press and the Center for Documentary Studies
2009 | 72 pages | 11 x 13.75 | 46 duotone photographs
ISBN 978-0-8223-4623-4 | cloth $39.95
Available at bookstores or from Duke University Press