Published in 1974, Growing Up Female: A Personal Photo-Journal by Abigail Heyman can really be considered ‘ahead of its time’.
In this book, Heyman combined her diary entries with photographs she made, mostly of other women (and men), but some of herself.
Heyman may not be the first name people think of when they talk about pioneering women documentary photographers but she was associated with Magnum Photos which she left in 1981, along with Charles Harbutt, Mark Godfrey, Mary Ellen Mark.
In the 70s, being a feminist usually meant going out to protests and marches but Joan Liftin, her friend and colleague at Magnum, told The New York Times in a 2013 interview, “she was not so much about marching. She took pictures that showed what the marching was about.”
Someone attempting to do a similar book in the 21st century would certainly be a lot more angry given that women rights, in many ways, have improved and yet not over the decades. So the anger could be a reaction to the lack of progress. But people these days are a lot more expressive, aren’t they?
This book sold more than 35,000 which is considered very rare for photography books, then and now.
Heyman continued to explore the theme of family and womanhood and subsequently published Dreams and Schemes: Love and Marriage in Modern Times.
Heyman’s words are honest but not one-sided. A lot of her rhetorics would certainly be considered defeatist by feminists on the extreme end. I’m sure some would have asked “How can a woman think that way?”.
She was perhaps confused, like many, on what her roles should be.