Laurie Toby Edison
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|Laurie Toby Edison|
March 5, 1942|
New York City
|Works||Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes (1994)
Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes (2004)
Laurie Toby Edison (born 1942) is an internationally exhibited portrait photographer. Her three suites of photographs include a series of nude environmental portraits of fat women (Women En Large), a series of nude environmental portraits of a very diverse cross-section of men (Familiar Men), and a series of clothed environmental portraits of women living in Japan (Women of Japan). Edison's work is black-and-white fine art photography, with an underlying social change message, which she often phrases as "making the invisible visible.”
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.
Publications and Exhibitions
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). 
About her work
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.
Edison's views on her work
- 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.
- National Museum of Art — “Meditations on the Body: Recent Works” (100 photographs from Familiar Men, Women of Japan, and Women En Large), Osaka, Japan, August –September 2001
- Afterimage, December 1994
- interview with the photographer, 2007
- Laurie Edison and Debbie Notkin, with Kobayashi Mika and Rebecca Jennison; Body Image in Japan and the United States; http://www.japanfocus.org/-Debbie-Notkin/3230
- Gallery Fleur (Familiar Men, Women En Large), Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan, November 14–26, 2000
- Official Site
- first of three parts of YouTube documentary
- Laurie Edison and Debbie Notkin, with Kobayashi Mika and Rebecca Jennison; Body Image in Japan and the United States