In 1978 Coach House Press published Marcia Resnick’s book, Re-visions, with minimal text and promotional blurbs by an impressive array of artists and writers including Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and William S. Burroughs. Terry Southern, who complimented Resnick’s success in conveying “her subliminally erotic design” without actually showing penetration, admitted to “responding to the imagery with a healthy and ever-increasing tumescence.”
Re-visions’ protagonist is an adolescent girl whose innocence has given way to an understanding of good and evil and who displays increasingly little ambivalence about the appeal of being a good girl. Her crimes are minor — sticking chewing gum under her chair, being unruly in class — but they have consequences. Awakening sexuality in both body and mind occupy some of the pictures, not surprisingly, given that the book is dedicated to Humbert Humbert of Lolita fame. Resnick’s Lolita wavers between being mortified when her actions draw attention and being provocative by setting herself apart in clothes or situation. She’s ambitious but in a teenage way, such as wanting to be a starlet. Adults can’t be trusted, particularly the men in her father’s NRA chapter, and nighttime is when the imagination is given free rein.
Staging ideas for the camera, rather than seeking out an equivalent in the tangible world, is almost as old as the photographic medium. The practice of “making” a photograph by creating and arranging all the elements, rather than “taking” a photograph, has gone through cycles of popularity over the decades. Resnick’s images were produced concurrently with a burst of new activity by other practitioners of the photographic narrative. William Wegman, Resnick’s friend who also contributed a jacket blurb, was one of the few photographers who even attempted, much less succeeded, in making art with Resnick’s wit and invention.