Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Melissa Ann Pinney  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Photography

Audience: Adult;


-- Website --
-- Melissa Ann Pinney on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Pinney lives in Evanston.

Biographical and Professional Information

Melissa Ann Pinney is a fine art photographer and teaches photography at Columbia College Chicago. A Guggenheim fellow, her work has been widely exhibited and is included in the permanent collections at such renowned institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern art.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Regarding Emma: Photographs of American Women and Girls
ISBN: 1930066147

Center for American Places. 2003

For more than fifteen years, Melissa Ann Pinney has been making photographs of girls and women, from infancy to old age, to portray how feminine identity is constructed, taught, and communicated. Her work depicts not only the rites of American womanhood—a prom, a wedding, a baby shower, a tea party—but the informal passages of girlhood: combing a doll's hair, doing laundry with a mother, smoking a cigarette at a state fair. With each view, we gain a greater understanding of the connections between mother and daughter, and by extension the larger world of family, friends, and society.

Pinney's approach to interpreting girlhood became more complicated and complex when her daughter, Emma, was born eight years ago. Emma's childhood evoked in Pinney her own girlhood and gave her work new meaning and purpose. Ultimately, Regarding Emma shares with all of us the incremental and the ritualistic changes that take place in a woman's life over time. Her photographs are artistic and social documents that reveal the subtle and bold aspects of feminine identity—documents whose reach will extend well beyond the walls of America's leading galleries and museums into the hearts and homes of everyday Americans.

"Melissa Ann Pinney is making powerful art. In matters of light, color, and composition she is flawless. But these are not simply constructions of elements. These photographs bear witness to the speed at which the little girl becomes the old woman, to the fleeting, breathless beauty of childhood, to life itself, which leaves us stunned in its wake."—Ann Patchett, from the Foreword

"Melissa Ann Pinney provides a compelling portrait of American girls as they make their way from infancy to adulthood. Using her daughter's childhood as a point of departure, she traces the complex terrain of adolescence and budding femininity. The results are photographs marked by empathy and grace."—Sylvia Wolf, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

"These photographs by Melissa Ann Pinney impart a sense of the special and sacred everyday rituals we take for granted. She appreciates at once the transient nature of what she finds and its gravity. Her pictures describe so well the wonder, and beauty, and centrality of the things we know best and the people we see often."—Sandra S. Phillips, Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

"Melissa Ann Pinney's record of life with her daughter, Emma, adds a new and touching chapter to our knowledge of the lives of women and girls."—Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and a staff writer for The New Yorker

"Melissa Pinney's passionate, painstaking investigation of the stages of women's lives is impressive for its rigor and courage. Her themes aren't imposed on the pictures or on the women, men, and children who people them instead, they arise from her attentive study of particularities— of the ways human lives are etched on the surfaces of faces and the positions of bodies in real spaces and places, mundane but radiant. When she turns from the lives of others to her own life, the shift is seamless but the volume swells, the emotions grow more pointed and the paradoxes more painful, joyous, and direct. This is remarkable work by an artist at the height of her powers."—Peter Bacon Hales, author of William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape

Girl Ascending (Center for American Places - Center Books on American Places)
ISBN: 1935195115

Center for American Places. 2011

For nearly thirty years, Melissa Ann Pinney has been photographing girls and women, from infancy to old age, to portray how feminine identity is constructed, taught, and communicated. Pinney’s work depicts not only the rites of American womanhood, but also the informal passages of girlhood and adolescence. With each view—from solitary subjects in pensive moments to complex family and social situations—the audience gains a richer understanding of the connections between a daughter and her parents, grandparents, and the larger world of friends and society. The pictures also reflect the ways in which a girl’s world in 2010 differs from the world Pinney knew growing up in the 1960s, and the ways in which the making of a person can transcend time and place.

Girl Ascending is a sequel to Pinney’s widely praised first book, Regarding Emma: Photographs of American Women and Girls. Of that previous book Janina Ciezaldo wrote in Aperture, “Pinney brings compositional integrity, knowledge of color, and a Midwestern richness of light to her inquiries.” This second volume is even more accomplished, mature, and stylistically consistent. As David Travis writes in his introduction, “Pinney has regained that sense of wonder, making her view of girls ascending into young women both believable and enchanting.”

Pinney’s photographs are powerful and insightful. As social and artistic documents, they reveal the subtle and bold aspects of feminine identity as it is expressed in American places and spaces, both private and public.

ISBN: 0062334425

Harper Design. 2015

Two is an exquisite collection of captivating and thought-provoking photographs by award-winning photographer Melissa Ann Pinney that contemplate the essence of duality in our relationships and in the world that surrounds us. Edited and introduced by Pinney's friend, New York Times bestselling author Ann Patchett, the volume is filled with memorable images that encase rich stories: two children at play, a pair of aging friends, parent and child, couples in love. But deeper meanings can lurk in the margins of the frame, in the expressions in the eyes, in the disconnect of the connection. Photographs without human subjects bear their own mysteries: two nesting tea cups, an indoor pool, two chairs in autumn.Pinney, whose work is in the permanent collections of dozens of American museums, including the Metropolitan, MoMA, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Getty, aims her lens at pairs—mostly, but not always human—that display or imply elusive connections of mind, of spirit, or of simply the act of being.

Patchett, whose enthusiasm for Pinney's vision helped bring this project to fruition, has paired the photographs with remarkable essays about the nature of two, commissioned from some of the best writers at work today: Edwidge Danticat, Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Russo, Elizabeth Gilbert, Susan Orlean, Alan Gurganus, Maile Meloy, Elizabeth McCracken, Jane Hamilton, and Billy Collins (who provides a beautiful poem celebrating "two creatures bound by wonderment.")

"I've always been interested in watching people together. I wonder what their story is, who they are to each other," Pinney writes in the preface. "No matter how uninspired I feel, how dull I think a place is, when I look at the world through a camera a new beginning takes place."

Filled with startling, sensitive images and nuanced prose, Two is an illuminating keepsake of human experience, at once universal and unique.

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