Book Review: Chicks with Guns By Lindsay McCrum

posted on October 10, 2011
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"I never wear perfume but I love the smell of cordite,” says Windi, pictured lounging in a zebra-skin chair outside her Houston, Texas home. Wearing a confident smile and a crimson cocktail dress, one would think that the Auguste Francotte 20-gauge shotgun across her lap would seem out of place.

But it doesn’t.

In fact, it is the perfect accessory. The portraits featured in Lindsay McCrum’s collection “Chicks with Guns” display women from all over the country, assorted in background, age and experience, each posing with her firearm of choice as though it were a pair of pearl earrings or a favorite handbag. The irony of the title suggests images of pin-up models in various stages of undress, sexualizing the shooting sports. This collection shows quite the opposite; there are no bare midriffs, cleavage or bikinis to be seen. The apparel ranges from a wedding dress, evening gowns, pant suits, old-timey western wear, camouflage, to a worn pair of jeans. Popular culture has encouraged the attitude of “Aw, look, she has a gun,” or the archetypal Black Widow femme fatale luring men to their demise. But these are real women, with real guns—their guns. While all very different, they possess a stong, quiet elegance that radiates through their gaze into McCrum’s lens. These are not boastful images, but the delicate, feminine pride in their eyes suggests how serious their right to keep and bear arms is to them.

Next to each portrait is the subject’s first name, location, make and model of her gun and a personal story about why she shoots. For some, it is for their careers, but for many of these ladies it is because it is a treasured family tradition. A hand-me-down love of hunting and shooting sports connects them to their past and plants seeds for their future. Many women are depicted with their sisters, mothers or grandmothers, sharing the link to a sport that will carry on when these young ladies raise their own Annie Oakleys.

Each woman has a unique background in her portrait. Some are outdoors in fields or mountain ranges, others in rooms in their homes, akin to wild animals photographed in their natural habitats. The images are in full color aside from the few that are captured in a demure black and white, as if to encourage the reader’s eye to focus on a deeper meaning for that woman. Alexandra from Houston, Texas, grips the stock of an Ithaca 20-gauge side-by-side in one hand while holding her one-year-old son, Truett, in the other. Lake, of Healdsburg, Calif., sits in her wheelchair with her pet Chihuahua and her Smith & Wesson .357 Mag. in her lap. These are two of the photographs McCrum selected for black and white, asking you politely to look closer.

Every backdrop adds depth to the portrait, juxtaposing these strong women with ties to their roots. A living room filled with porcelain dolls, a Montana mountain range, trophy rooms, forests in Oregon or sitting atop of a wing of a vintage fighter jet. There are more to these women than just a firearm. There is a pregnant belly, shooting competition medals and riding chaps to add even more facets to McCrum’s photographs.

There are no ages attached to these women, although a few say how old they are. It doesn’t matter however, because like their firearms, they are timeless. The M1911 has been in service for 100 years, same as the woman defending her home while her husband is away. These women aren’t Vogue models. They’re police officers, former MPs, debutantes, single mothers, 9-1-1 dispatchers, ladies of leisure, teenagers, wives, mothers and businesswomen. Each with a graceful, mysterious beauty that exudes the passion she has for her calling. Their guns are only a small extension of themselves, an addendum to their lifestyles. Whether it is for protection or a priceless heirloom, a firearm is a respected member of their families. McCrum displays these women as strong and fiery as the firearms they carry—in a sense they are what they shoot. While we may never know these amazing women personally, we don’t have to look very far to find a likeness. Some of us only need a mirror.

"Chicks with Guns" by Lindsay McCrum is availble from a variety of book retailers, including Barnes and Noble and Amazon, for $45.

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