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Monday, 12 December 2011


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This is only marginally related to the topic. My friend had a nanny for their daugther for a couple of years, who had previously been on the Hungarian women's Olympic shooting team. My friend used to say to me that the last thing we needed was a woman who was a good shot with a gun.

Good picture.

The Chicks With Guns book received ten 5-star reviews and one 3-star review out of eleven total reviews on Amazon so far. The major complaint from the 3-star review seems to be the following statement.

"The pictures were beautiful and would have been more beautiful if every other page didn't have the picture in a blah ugly black and white."

Oh, yeah, those "blah ugly black and white" photos. I got a chuckle out of that statement.

ok..cool..looks like it should be titled "Pretty Chicks With guns"

Where'er the crusty, one bow leg shorties with a missing tooth and a heater tucked into the back waistband of their WalMart stretchies??

Looks a bit overstyled to me and the romantic notion of the GUN fixed on the hip of a styled, pretty girl just kinda makes me want to twitch and wonder..what road is this? where's it go?

I live in the city..I've had 2 people shot and killed on my front doorstep in the last 20 years..many more within a half a block, countless shootouts that would rival the Alamo. At a certain point, in the context of everyday life..guns are for cowards..there is no better way to distance yourself from the act of hurting/killing someone.

...The neighborhood is better but my feelings about guns and America? It goes down this road..I have had enough. there're several new shows on the Discovery Channel that cater to gun people..Sometimes I watch them because Im interested in how metal is manipulated..The gun part makes me sort of uneasy in the way those shows popped up. Now, this guns and women thing? I dont know Mikey..Im not sure how even excellent these photos are.

The badge by her left shoulder indicates she is a member of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) which is an organization that shoots with and promotes the firearms of the "Old West". The members dress as western characters and participate in shooting competitions. Yes, with live ammo. The photo looks like it was taken at a shooting range. Very nice.

Sorry, this leaves me cold and wondering is dress up photography going out of the sidewalk studio and out into the backyard?!

Since you and I seem to be the same person in so many regards, cameras, cars, jeans, so many things, it is, uh, surprising that you feature this. I find it disgusting. In several ways. Ha, and I live in the land of guns, Montana. Actually, Montana is probably not all that special gun wise anymore. No, I do not own.

Dear Mike,

When some acquaintances (I can't really call them friends) started disparaging movies they didn't like as "chick flicks" I started referring to the movies they did like as "dick flicks."

Astonishingly, they didn't think that was half so amusing. I cannot fathom why.

pax / wide-eyed innocent Ctein

"...But there's just enough of a hint of menace in that expression to suggest that those six-shooters are real."

Mike, my thoughts exactly, even before I finished reading what you wrote.

Too many women photographers in TOP "Random Excellence" posts ? Not quite or not random enough. According the Special Report on women in the workforce published in November 26 issue of The Economist(page 6) the share of women photographers went up from the low teens in 1972 to half in 2009. Maybe the perceptions of TOP's readers are less up to date than their knowledge of last camera models.

Serious question: has her arm been photoshopped? Look at the inside of her elbow. It almost looks as though someone magically erased the inside of her arm, making it unnaturally thin at that point.

I'm not sure whether I care either way, it's just that it struck me as odd. I'd find it whether it is natural or just over-processed.


The book "Armed America" concentrated on the odd and the geeky gunnies. This book covers the fashionable and well to do variety. I guess that everyone features the kind of people that are familiar to them.

Many years ago, when carrying a gun wasn't legal in Minnesota, a local beat cop told me: "I don't care if you carry a gun...but your girlfriend really should!" I think he had a point: women benefit much more than men from a safety upgrade afforded by personal sidearms. For that reason, I like this book though the style of the images leaves me cold.

Just guessing, but I don't think that was taken with a small sensor camera.....

So NRA propaganda is getting sexy? Charleston Heston's "cold dead hands" no longer good enough for them?

I'm certainly not american enough (actually not at all) to guess if it is a real quote or not, or if the quote is evident enough not to say it, but that title reminds me of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRJpvUwDlG8 . Not exactly the same style, though.

I started referring to the movies they did like as "dick flicks."

Genius! I'll be stealing that from you, if you don't mind.

Where I grew up on the east coast of Scotland a women was referred to not as a "chick" but a "hen" as in " are yous gaein oot Hen?". I'm not sure I'd call the lady with the revolvers hen though.

Maybe it's time for a new category, Only in America. You could put those strange sports you refer to in there too.

Few people dress like that (even excluding the guns) routinely, so calling it "styled" can't really be contradicted; it's a deliberate assumption of a style. But as Richard says, it looks very much like somebody tricked out for SASS competition (if so, she's got a rifle and a shotgun around somewhere too).

Despite living in the city myself, I don't seem to have any bullet pocks in my stucco (let alone bodies on my doorstep). In the context of my everyday life, guns are part of the safety equipment, along with fire extinguishers and smoke detectors and seat belts. None of those have saved my life, yet, because I'm careful in addition to having safety equipment.

Fine portraits but none of them have the quiet beauty of this shot from Lucas Foglia’s Re- Wilding


The Cohen brothers could not have done better justice to them

Yet more gun fetishising and glamorising? Include me out.


To your statement: ...women now make up half the professional photographers in 2009...

It's interesting to note, that women also have a long and documented work history of populating jobs that men abandon due to declining income. Saw a lot of this in the 70's and early 80's in ancillary trades revolving around manufacturing, like what used to be called 'mechanical drawing'. I'm pretty sure this is what's been happening to photography as well; just not a moneyed career anymore for the majority.

Not a sexist statement, just an interesting factoid...

And to Richard McManus' statement, he's correct, there's a whole passel of people that belong to the Single Action Shooting Society, and they all dress up in period garb and practice their skills. Before everyone writes in thinking it's sexist or gun nuts, just google it and look at the stuff. They all have alias, like "Dance Hall Jill", and "Pistol Pete", and dress to their personna, like a role playing exercise. Women seem to dress in everything from dance hall outfits to grizzled prospector garb, with fitting alias, so this isn't some sexist deal.

Not To Mention, I wouldn't be disparaging any woman who shoots in the SASS, and can put a bullet through a playing card at 25 yards with an knock-off antique pistol! I just say: "Have a nice day, Maam!"

". . . there's just enough of a hint of menace in that expression to suggest that those six-shooters are real."

Where you see menace, I see confidence. Perhaps this says something about both of us. As for their being real guns, what would you expect from the title, kittens?

Just what I was not waiting for: more Americans with guns.

"Maybe it's time for a new category, Only in America."

Don't get me started....


+1 to Yves Papillon.

I also really enjoy seeing the work of women (and men, it's just that that is generally the default), but I don't have a ton of time to comment given that I have little kids running around creating disasters during much of my day!

Before the comments get too heated, I'll note that both of these books look interesting, although the "Chicks With Guns" pictures look a little too staged, romantic, and unnatural somehow, maybe sterile. I love the people with their dogs in "Armed America," but some of those pictures are almost *too* bland with so many subjects posed the same way in their living room and the guns on the floor. It's almost like, "Chicks with Guns" is how gun owners imagine themselves while "Armed America" is more the reality.

Full disclosure, I'm a gun lover and occasional hunter, that's my family background - even though I live in a big city and don't own any weapons myself. I hope the comments to this thread remain civil since people of many stripes do read TOP.

I understood that a book like this is seen to be a fun sort of thing in the US, however, from the other side of the Atlantic it really doesnt. As Peter says, 'more Americans with guns'...........
Kerry Glasier
Cornwall, UK

Did you mean to say that you get accused of not featuring enough female photographers? Because looking through your archives, I can't believe anyone would accuse you of featuring too many.

Wow, you're absolutely right. That surprises me. Guess "self-awareness" is also not something I can be accurately accused of.


Dear Becky,

Don't forget that Mike has about 30,000 readers. Among them are sure to be a certain percentage of that kind of man who upon noticing that women are being represented, complains that they are being favored, since otherwise he would not even notice.

Clearly, some readers' threshold is at the 10% level, since that's the percentage of articles (and Random Excellences) featuring the work of that clearly-overrepresented group-- women.

We have a name for such men, but Mike does not permit ad hominem, so discretion shall remain.

pax / Ctein

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