She was born and raised in New York City, raised in a family of artists and designers. She and her writing partner Debbie Notkin blog about body image and related topics at Body Impolitic. She has two daughters, one a dance choreographer and the other a biotechnology scientist. She’s a long-time resident of San Francisco, and lives in the Mission District.
She has published two black-and-white fine art photography books: Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes (1994); and Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes (2004).
Women of Japan, a suite of clothed portraits of women in Japan, from many Japanese cultures and backgrounds, was completed in 2007. Photographs have been exhibited in Japan, China and the US, and will be included in an exhibition in Shenyang, China in 2014.
A retrospective of one hundred of her photographs “Meditations on the Body: Recent Work” was exhibited at the National Museum of Art in Osaka in 2001. Her photographs have also been exhibited around the world, including New York City, Tokyo, Kyoto, Toronto, Boston, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, and San Francisco. The complete Women of Japan project was shown at the Pacifico Convention Center in Yokohama in the fall of 2007.
Edison has photographs in the permanent collections of Gallery Fleur, Kyoto Seika University, and the National Museum of Art, Osaka. The National Museum included six of her photographs in their 35th anniversary exhibition, The Allure of the Collection, in 2012.
A documentary about her work by John Wells is available on YouTube.
Among the dozens of articles about her work are a feature in NY Arts/Berliner Kunst by Lori Don Levan (May–June 2004); "Beautiful Men”, an article in English and Spanish by Laurie Toby Edison and Debbie Notkin, with 14 photographs from Familiar Men, in Corpus, Vol 3 No 1, 2005; and an essay on Women of Japan with accompanying photographs, in Kyoto Journal: Perspectives From Asia (Spring 2006).
Photographer and commentator Tee Corinne said that Edison’s work "is unique in focusing on the nude without eroticizing it." Edison says “Bodies are sensual, and that’s part of my work, but I am engaged with the whole person in his or her space.”
Edison practices environmental portraiture, collaborating with her models to find settings which reflect their sense of themselves. They are frequently in the model’s home or garden, but can also be in natural or other outdoor settings. For instance, her three photographs of Okinawan artist and activist Hanashiro Ikuko show her at her loom, at a sacred forest site, and in front of a fence around a US military base.
The collaboration also extends to the communities from which the models come. Edison and her writing partner Debbie Notkin spent ten years working among Fat Acceptance and Health at Every Size activists before the publication of Women En Large. Familiar Men also entailed outreach to different men's groups.
Women of Japan required especially broad efforts, in recruiting models, in arranging exhibitions, and in ensuring proper translations of the models’ written contributions. Notkin and Edison wrote an article for the Asia Pacific Journal, “Body Image in the US and Japan,” which discusses outreach in Japan, with references to their experiences with Women En Large and Familiar Men.
Just as Women En Large is my statement on the female nude, at least at this time, Familiar Men is my statement on the male nude. The five years I spent photographing men and talking with them have transformed my vision of masculinity in this time and place, as well as how I perceive the body in my work.I first saw all my nude photographs, men and women together, in Kyoto in November of 2000. I realized that they are a single body of work imbuing the individual nudes with dignity and presence.Women of Japan, my first group of clothed portraits, had me grappling with all the issues from the previous two suites, from the position of a foreigner, and included the additional complex issues of Japanese identity.
Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes by Laurie Toby Edison
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Shifting Focus Press (September 6, 2003)
Amazon: Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes
In general, if we see male nudes at all in this culture, we see only the most muscular and buffed of the weight-lifting culture. To counter these limited images, internationally exhibited photographer Laurie Toby Edison provides this suite of nude photographs of a wide variety of men. The men represent a huge variety in age, race, ethnicity, body type, social class, and level of physical ability. The men photographed include college professors, rock musicians, aerospace and warehouse workers, computer consultants, retired businessmen, dancers, disability activists, museum directors, and tattoo artists. The text, by Debbie Notkin and Richard F. Dutcher, features a long essay, "To Be a Man," as well as an assortment of quotations on masculinity from models and others.
Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes by Laurie Toby Edison & Debbie Notkin
Paperback: 116 pages
Publisher: Books in Focus; 1st edition (September 1994)
Amazon: Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes
These extraordinary photographs of powerful and beautiful fat women will change your image of beauty forever. The pictures and text combine to send the strongest possible message: We will no longer let society define beauty!
More Photographers at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Art
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