Featuring works by Chicago photographer Melissa Ann Pinney, The Girls of Summer evokes the sights and sounds of that season of leisure — our return to the out-of-doors after the confines of winter and school. As she has since the late 1980s, Pinney focuses on “feminine identity . . . exploring the persistence of the child in the woman and the early cultivation of the woman in the child.” She draws our attention to the childhood joy of tree climbing and the exuberance of a soccer match, and to quieter moments of friendship or contemplation.
The latter, in their ambiguity, are perhaps the most affecting. A dreamlike quality pervades In the Woods, which depicts a young woman lying on a blanket in a grassy opening. Pinney has darkened both sides of the image creating a sense of tunnel vision and concentrating our attention on the subject, who looks not at the book in her hand, but unnaturally at the ground above her head—seemingly lost in thought.
At first glance, Jacqueline with Green Pail looks like a snapshot, a quickly captured moment in time. This belies Pinney’s careful composition, which isolates the warm tones of Jacqueline’s skin, her red hair and red tee shirt, within a field of green foliage. Tall and lanky but still flat chested, Jacqueline stands on the precipice of adolescence, the green pail marking a childhood soon to be abandoned.
Three generations comingle in Ice Cream Social, Evanston, Illinois. Pinney focuses on the elder of the group, who takes center stage. Nattily dressed for summer—in her brimmed hat, pearl earrings and necklace, and straw bag—she enjoys an ice cream cone, having perhaps taken her eyes briefly from the red-haired baby at her feet.
Drawn from the Bell Gallery collection, photos in The Girls of Summer were gifts of Kira and Carl Cafaro, and Jeanne and Richard S. Press '60, P'90, P'08, P'12. They represent two of Pinney’s series—Regarding Emma (published in 2003) and Girl Ascending (2001).