"It's All That Glitters" Book Review
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Photographed and written by Brian C. Janes
2012, 216 pages, Art/Photography
Released on April 28th, 2012
Photographer Brian C. Janes had one question in mind: What is burlesque? After having photographed plenty of entertainers before, he knew no one would answer that question better than burlesque performers themselves. With his query in hand and the source that could provide the best answer scattered all across the nation, Janes embarked on a project that eventually had him traveling over 14,000 miles across the U.S. as he interviewed and photographed some of the top names in burlesque. However, given the personal nature of his question, the artist decided to take the performers down from the stage and photograph them in their homes. The result is It's All That Glitters, a book that opens a door into a world that most folks only think they understand.
It's All That Glitters was a surprise to me because I expected to be bored after reading fifty responses to the same question. However, The men and women that Janes interviewed all had very diverging and truly personal answers to give. All of them were presented with the same question: What does burlesque mean to you? The 104 answers were almost as unique as the accompanying portraits.
Many performers talked about things one would expect. For example, many mentioned they like burlesque because it's fun, sexy, and gives them a chance to entertain a crowd. On the other hand, others opened up about feeling empowered when they're on stage, of how burlesque is really a community where everyone is willing to lend a hand, and how having a chance to become someone else is just a way of letting a different part of their personality show. Also, many performers mentioned that burlesque has been a way for them to leave behind crippling feelings of self-consciousness and inadequacy. In a world where the beauty canons seem to get stricter with each passing day, burlesque is raising its voice and letting the world know that sexiness comes in many shapes and sizes.
Despite the interesting answers, the main reason for owning this book is Janes' photographic work. Taking the performers away from the stage did nothing to diminish the visual discourse. Some of the homes are as wild as any production, and those that are not visually striking offer an interesting, contrasting background to the figures that are the focus of the pictures. Also, family and pets make appearances on some images, which makes things more interesting and surreal because their presence contrasts vividly with the extraordinary, half-naked artist that's the picture's focus point.
While there are photography books that one can devour, I would suggest taking it easy with this one. There are plenty of variations in what's being said, but the fact remains that all the performers are replying to the same question, so attempting to read this like a regular book will inevitably lead you to finding it repetitive. Instead, enjoy a response/portrait combo at a time. Good luck trying to keep your clothes on while doing it.