About the Photographer
Pinney, Melissa Ann
American, b. 1953
Melissa Ann Pinney began shooting weddings and other ceremonies because she was asked to, but in doing so discovered it was a rich vein to pursue issues she was already interested in. Bat Mitzvah Dance, Knickerbocker Hotel, for instance, is not just about modern ritual and rites of passage. It demonstrates the differences in development between the sexes, notes how tall girls bend their knees to accommodate their shorter partners. The image is part of Pinney's long-term Feminine Identity project, a documentary series that began to take form in 1987. With the birth of Pinney's daughter in 1995, however, her photographic exploration of femininity shifted from the documentary to the more personal pictures of Regarding Emma. A decade later, Pinney's photographs have clearly transitioned, the change marked by a variety of choices: her subjects are typically relatives or otherwise from her community, her light is available, and her camera is medium-format.
Pinney was born in St. Louis in 1953, and holds a BA from Columbia College Chicago (1977) and an MFA from University of Illinois Circle Campus, Chicago (1988). She is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1999), a National Endowment for the Arts, Midwest Regional Fellowship (1987-88), and a total of four grants and fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council (1989, 1987, 1981, 1980). Her photographs are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Formerly an instructor at IIT's Institute of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago, Pinney has taught at Columbia College Chicago since 1984.