Title: Dedication to Hunger: The Anorexic Aesthetic in Modern Culture

Photographer: Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Author: Leslie Heywood
Publisher: University of California Press
Designer: Nola Burger


Image Title: Dot-Lady, Wisconsin 1983
Photo Genre: Pinhole
Book Genre: Anorexia in contemporary culture

  It is possible, but unlikely, that photographer Ruth Thorne-Thomsen had Anorexia Nervosa in mind when she made this pinhole photograph. The wasting condition that is all too familiar to us today had just appeared on the public's radar in 1983, as a result of its role in the death of pop singer Karen Carpenter the same year. Whatever the case, Dot-Lady, Wisconsin serves as an intriguing and eerie visual metaphor for Leslie Heywood's book; a postmodern mix of memoir and criticism concerning the portrayal of Anorexia in modern society.

  To create this image, Thorne-Thomsen probably made an exposure of a rocky beachscape with her pinhole camera and then poked holes in the paper negative, approximating the shape of a human figure. Formally, the holes create a spatial disconnect between something that is there and something that isn't, or perhaps a form in the process of coalescing or disintegrating. The figure can either be seen as emerging from the rocky beach (reminiscent of Bill Brandt's nudes from the coast of France) or as particles pouring onto the ground. In terms of the book's content, the holes lend the figure a porous, even hollow quality, metaphorically consistent with the loss of weight, self-image and even life associated with the disease.  

  Thorne-Thomsen's original is brownish in tone. The cover's blue coloring, presumably the choice of the designer, offers a visual counterpoint to the author's name in red type. This rectangle of image is now a component in an overall reductive, abstract design, reminiscent of Bauhous formalism.  KB