Woman: A Celebration

by Alex Novak


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I am not really certain if this small gem of a publication should be considered a book or a photo dealer's catalogue. The images come from Santa Monica, CA photography dealer Peter Fetterman's personal collection and his inventory.

My friend Peter has been collecting images of women for about 25 years now, and the photographs that he has accumulated in this attractive slim volume (136 pages with 122 plates) are a treasure. The diversity alone is enough to make you run out and purchase this publication: from Mother Teresa to fashion models, from expressions of joy to sorrow and pain, from the girl next door to women from exotic, strange cultures. They all form the kaleidoscopic viewpoint that makes a true Gestalt, so that the book transcends both its title and limitations. Its schizophrenia is its very strength, giving us a brief whiplash of sensations and emotions that are somehow tied back to the strength of the women in the pictures themselves.

Whoopi Goldberg's short forward is cute and heartfelt, even if a bit gratuitous.

And, of course, the images are the centerpiece of the book, as they should be. I was pleased to have contributed four of those chosen, and I have owned another six images in the book at one time or other, so it was like old home week. But there were plenty that I was not familiar with, and all challenged my assumptions, showing not only Peter's fine eye but also his openness to the full spectrum of possibility here.

Peter's all-too-brief introduction mirrors the work as he tries to explain the inexplicable, about his reaction to the photographs and his reasons for collecting them. Leading off with womanizer Alfred Stieglitz's quote "My medium is Woman" might not be the best choice of an observer, but the quote is certainly an apt observation for the practitioners represented in the book.

Frankly, I was a bit concerned that the written word would not hold up to the collection of images. Many photo dealers are not the best writers around; they are focused on images after all. But Peter is elegant and passionate in his expression about his chosen subject, and, in the end, I found myself hoping for even a little more of his perceptions. I particularly liked his close-to-final comment: "Collectors are only temporary custodians of their objects of desire."

This well-printed hardbound book, published by Chronicle Books, is available for $22.95 at most book stores , or from the Peter Fetterman Gallery, which can be reached at pfgallery@earthlink.net or by phone at 1-310-453-6463.

Novak has over 42 years experience in the photography-collecting arena. He is a long-time member and formally board member of the Daguerreian Society, and, when it was still functioning, he was a member of the American Historical Photographic Society. He organized the 2016 19th-century Photography Show and Conference for the Daguerreian Society. He is also a long-time member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. Novak has been a member of the board of the nonprofit Photo Review, which publishes both the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector, and is currently on the Photo Review's advisory board. He was a founding member of the Getty Museum Photography Council. He is author of French 19th-Century Master Photographers: Life into Art.

Novak has had photography articles and columns published in several newspapers, the American Photographic Historical Society newsletter, the Photograph Collector and the Daguerreian Society newsletter. He writes and publishes the E-Photo Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter in the field. Novak is also president and owner of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, a private photography dealer, which sells by appointment and at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, etc.