Susan Faludi Adds a Key Ingredient to Her 2016 Book: Photographs

In 2004, at age 76, her father opted for gender reassignment surgery

The book In the Darkroom garnered much acclaim in 2016, but as some readers noted, there was something missing. Not so with the new paperback edition, released May 2.

Author Susan Faludi, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, explains in an essay for New York Times photography blog Lens that she felt that the bulk of the photographs she uncovered when her father passed away in 2015, 11 years after his gender reassignment surgery, were a “lie.” These pictures captured a version of her dad, male, and her family’s life that was later proven to be fleeting. So why add the photos now?

Here is just the beginning of Faludi’s long, lyrical explanation:

During my father’s career in New York from the 1960s to the late 1980s, he was sought out for what he called “trick photography.” Steve Faludi was a master of manipulative techniques–the montage, the composite, the color conversion, dodging, masking, burning, and the other transmutations of the pre-Photoshop trade. He had built a career on altering images. Condé Nast turned to him to perform the most difficult darkroom mutations for its coffee table books and publications, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Glamour, House & Gardens, Brides. He worked with many leading commercial photographers of the day, among them: Francesco Scavullo, Irving Penn, and Bert Stern. Also: Avedon.

By the time I came to Budapest, my father’s “trick photography” had found a new application. In our family pictures, Steve had been mostly behind the camera. In her new photographs, documenting her gender transformation, Stefánie was in front, the woman in the frame. Her home computer held thousands of selfies and self-montages of her in the guise of fashion model, beauty contestant, movie actress, Danish princess, Hungarian csárdás folk dancer, permutations of what she called her “new self.”

In the NYT article comments, one reader pays Faludi a high compliment:

Yamabuki: Having read Susan Faludi’s book about her father, I appreciate this addition to the stories presented in her book. To be honest I did not feel the need to see pictures when reading her book. Indeed, even seeing the pictures in this article pales in comparison to the images imprinted in my mind from reading her book. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but to me Susan Faludi’s writing is so excellent that I find it much clearer than any of the photographs in this article.

During a recent talk at Bowdoin College, where Faludi is a research associate in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies program, she underscored that the decision not to include photos of Steven Faludi or Stephanie Faludi in the 2016 hardcover edition was ultimately made by her editors. Her father passed away May 14, 2015.