The National Rifle Association is going to adore Chicks With Guns, probably even more than the shopping throng that scooped up all 200 copies of the tribute to womanhood's relationship with firearms at the Tootsies book signing on Tuesday night.
The fashionable launch of internationally-renowned portrait photographer Lindsay McCrum's new book (Oct. 1 is the official release date) was an unexpected success. Perhaps the fact that 10 of the women featured are from Houston had something to do with it. Also, that most of them including Lynn Wyatt, Alexandra Knight, Eliza Stedman and Windi Grimes sat at the huge rustic dining table in the middle of Tootsies autographing their photos while McCrum signed the cover page.
That brilliant idea came from Holly Moore, editor of PaperCity, which hosted the book signing party.
"I could have done an entire book just on Texas," McCrum said as she explained the process of finding women who own guns.
In conversation the following day, McCrum discussed the evolution of the, some might say shocking, concept for a coffee table tome. She explained that she was searching for a new project in 2006 when she read an article in The Economist about the proliferation of hunting and guns throughout America.
"Guns are enormous. This isn't a blue state or a red state thing," she said. "This is an American thing." In fact, studies show that Americans own roughly 300 million guns.
So she began with the idea of a photo exhibition of women and their weapons. But that quickly evolved into a full-blown book in which each of the subjects contributed her own story regarding guns in her life. While the title of the book is provocative (McCrum's irreverent working title that stuck), the content is far from frivolous. Indeed, photos of a very young girl toting a Ruger 10/22 carbine, for example, or the young woman in her wedding gown holding an antique pistol are unsettling.
McCrum is not apologetic about the challenging nature of the book. In fact, she applauds it. The photographs are beautiful. The narratives provided by the women are interesting and enlightening. The entire thing arresting. As Stephen Meagher writes in the introduction, "One of the achievements of this book is that it remains true to the photographer's neutrality. It offers insight rather than advocacy, an exploration not an agenda."
And to set the record straight, McCrum says, "The only thing I shoot are cameras."
Fifteen of the subjects are from Texas. That is no small statement considering that she photographed 280 women, that were then edited down to 78 photos of 81. "I could have done an entire book just on Texas," McCrum said as she explained the process of finding women who own guns. "It was just word of mouth. There were lots of emails and phone calls involved."
Which brings us back to Tuesday's book signing. Tootsies' sleek looks were transformed into a safari motif as envisioned by Jeanne Ruberti and Creative Resources' Steven Wagner and Paul Hensley. Our favorite addition: the model stands with banners declaring "The right to bare arms."
And there were plenty of bare arms in this mostly cocktail-attired crowd although Aliyya Stude and her young daughter, Soraya, acknowledging the book's theme dressed in shooting clothes. Dressed for success on this evening was jewelry designer Houstonian Jill Reno, who was excited to be in the store with the book action. "I love this," she said. "I'm licensed to carry a concealed weapon so this is great."
The following afternoon McCrum, Gaye Kelsey, Carol Abernethy and a few others returned to Tootises to continue signing the books that had piled up from the night before.