Reviews

Chicks With Guns

Beautiful silhouette of a woman with a rifle in the rays of the setting sun. Sports shooting and hunting concept. 4K video

“Shooting, hunting, and guns in general are such an integral part of my personal and professional life that it’s hard for me to imagine that I had a life before firearms” (Ginny p.155). Lindsay McCrum’s book of portraits, Chicks With Guns, is a sophisticated coffee table book. Despite what could possibly be a misleading title to some, the book does not depict pin-up style photographs. The book features 80 well thought-out portraits of women and the gun of their choosing, accompanied by the subject’s own words about her guns and her love of the sport of shooting.

At first glance, my eyes draw to the expansive backgrounds of the shots. I notice how the women are not necessarily the center of each shot. It is the backgrounds, bigger than the subjects, which really draw attention. The outdoor shots tend to be without a horizon, without signs of life, sometimes lush and full, sometimes stark and desolate—almost lonely. The guns seem to be a second thought. Each woman’s expression and the depth of each portrait take center stage over the gun.

Overcast and cloudy, the outdoor images make you feel the electric charge in the air, the slight breeze in your hair, and imagine the crisp, damp smell of earth right before a storm. The inside images are the same; heavy on surroundings. The rich, deep colors jump out at you, providing a stark contrast between the subject and the background.

For the black and white photos, it is just the opposite with the background blurring and the subject of the portrait clearly drawing the most attention.

The camo-clad women slightly fade into the background. The choice of clothing and environment of the inside pictures are curious. Dressed in evening gowns or old-fashioned English-style foxhunt, the hunting trophies surround their subjects. In the color photos, the colors are vivid, but natural earth tones.

Very few of the women in the book are smiling; some are serious, some are pensive, some are looking away from the camera. Once you start spending a little time with each picture, the photographs become more haunting, more mysterious. It is hard not to feel that each woman is standing in isolation, much like the background reflects.

It was not Lindsay McCrum’s intention to make a political statement about firearms. She started the project out of curiosity. She says she had an art teacher tell her that art “should push people to think about the world around them in new and different ways” (msnbc.com). Her beautiful portraits focus on the women, rather than the guns. What I do see is that the guns become one with the subject and the confidence of each woman. The images do not make a statement either way about the gun-control issue.

My interpretation of McCrum’s choices says something about women and firearms. There are approximately 20 million women in the United States who own firearms, but if you are one of those 20 million, it may feel isolating being a shooter, a huntress, or owning a gun for self-protection. It is not surprising that the expansive, and sometimes solitary, backgrounds in which these women are pictured pops out at me.

The decision to use so many hunting trophies also makes me wonder if it is impossible to completely separate gender politics from the subject matter.

It took Lisa four years to photograph 280 women to accomplish the book. It surprised me that the guns seem to be an extension of each woman and not the focus. Her cerebral images clearly demonstrate that these women are powerful and confident yet feminine at the same time. Using women of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities, McCrum shows us the diversity of the shooting sports, and all the reasons why women chose to take up arms.

As you spend more time staring at each woman’s expression and reflect on the background, it leaves you curious. What is she thinking? What did the other 200 photos look like? What was left out? Each time you pick up the book, you will find something else, feel something else, and you will pick different “favorite.” Every time I have had my picture taken with a gun it was for the purpose to remember a special time. I have never had a portrait taken of me with one of my guns. I wonder what I would want that portrait to look like. Which gun would gun I choose? Certainly, McCrum’s wonderful picture book has led me to look inside myself and reflect on why I own guns; how I wish to portray myself owning those guns, and it has certainly opened my eyes to all the different reasons why women chose to own guns.

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