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Gloria Steinem

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Portrait Play

By Anna Grazulis

Photos by Susan Wood

08.30.18

Amagansett-based photographer Susan Wood releases a collection of previously unseen photos of some of the world’s most influential women in a new book this September.

“Don’t you love the Mary Wells [Lawrence] stuff that we open with?” asks Susan Wood, remarking on four gleeful photos of the retired advertising executive found in the early pages of her new book, Women: Portraits 1960-2000 ($65, Pointed Leaf Press). “Well, I think they had just closed a deal, and it was caught at the perfect moment,” she recalls. Although she received a graduate degree in art from Yale, studying with Josef Albers, Wood became a photographer somewhat out of necessity. “It was a very worthwhile experience,” Wood says of her time at Yale, “but at that point they weren’t teaching you how to make a living and get out in the world with art. You were supposed to go off into your studio alone—they didn’t teach you how to get a gallery, how to get out and market your work.”

Gleaming with retro composure and rich, real colors that capture the subject in its truest form, her revolutionary photos of food, as well as those of people, events and interiors, have been featured in publications like Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Look, People, Life and New York magazines. Her new book is filled with striking, never-before-seen photos of influential women in the orbits of Gloria Steinem, Ricky Lauren, Betty Friedan, Diane von Furstenberg, Martha Stewart and more, with quite a few shot on the East End. The real artistry, though, is how Wood’s own coming-of-age experience is reflected in her female subjects. “I didn’t know it at the time, but every time I went to photograph one, many of them became friends or they began to relax around me, because I wanted to be there while they were doing what they did; so I could catch what ‘it’ was,” she continues, “at the same time—you know, to kind of invade that space and move around, or stand aside so they became unconscious of me.” 

Cover of Women: Portraits 1960-2000 (Pointed Leaf Press) by Susan Wood