Eight Girls Taking Pictures

“For her rich ensemble novel Eight Girls Taking Pictures, Whitney Otto mined the real lives of 20th-century photographers like Imogen Cunningham and Ruth Orkin, creating linked fictional portraits full of glamour and grit.” T Magazine:The New York Times Style Fall 2012

“Famous female photographers play muse to novelist Whitney Otto in the EXTRAORDINARY Eight Girls Taking Pictures (Scribner).” Vanity Fair (Hot Type)

“Otto's photographers navigate work and home life, parenthood and romantic love amid events spanning the 20th century…. all of their stories are thoughtful, nuanced depictions of the complexity of women's lives, then and now. Eight Girls is a moving read about the pleasures and pangs that define the lives of women today.” USA Today

“‘IT WAS SO NEEDLESSLY TRUSTING ... to see something every day and not for one minute consider that there is an underneath,’ thinks one of the eight protagonists in Portland author Whitney Otto’s Eight Girls Taking Pictures. Although the character is lamenting her unrequited love, her quote could just as easily be applied to the book’s two inextricably bound themes of photography and feminism. With both, there is always another layer beneath the surface that bewilders, subverts, and surprises…. Though their settings differ, each woman’s story beats with the same pulse, expanding when they fall in love or achieve creative fulfillment, and contracting every time they must choose between the two. In one scene, Blum wonders ‘why it was that a woman’s life ... could so effortlessly be told using collage. As if women could never be anything but the sum of their parts. The products of their many desires.’ In contrast, Otto’s vivid narratives of these women’s lives—often bohemian, occasionally luxurious, always richly intellectual and full of love—render them as complete, complicated mediums between their cameras and a world that treats them so ambivalently.” Portland Monthly Magazine


A deeply affecting meditation on the lives of women artists, Whitney Otto's vivid novel explores the ambitions, passions, conflicts and desires of eight female photographers throughout the twentieth century. This spectacular cast of spirited, larger-than-life women offers wide-ranging insight about the times in which they lived. From San Francisco to New York, London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Rome, Otto spins a magical, romantic tale that creates a compelling portrait of the history of feminism and of photography.

While their circumstances may differ, the tensions these women experience—from wanting a private life or a public life; passion or security; art or domesticity; children or creative freedom—are universal. Otto seamlessly weaves together eight breathtaking vignettes to form a moving and emotionally satisfying novel.

Audio Excerpt