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Edison, Laurie Toby (b. 1942)  

Laurie Toby Edison is best known for three collections of photographic work featuring, respectively, fat nude women, nude men, and women in Japan. Each collection is characterized by the diversity of individuals pictured. Identifying as a bisexual, she has been active with activist organizations, including Queer Nation, and queer history groups.

Born on March 5, 1942 into an upper-middle-class Jewish family in New York City, she grew up in Manhattan and Queens. During her childhood, her father was a businessman, her mother a dress designer, and her grandmother a Greenwich Village jeweler.

Edison grew up among people who had concentration camp numbers tattooed on their arms and remembers being deeply affected by newspaper and magazine photographs of the piled-up naked bodies of Holocaust dead.

In her teens, Edison was influenced by her involvement in the beat world in New York City, by Abstract Expressionist art, and by jazz music. She attended Wellesley college for one year (1958-1959).

Edison married twice and has a daughter from each marriage. During the 1960s, Edison co-owned The Waverly Shops in Provincetown and Sarasota, selling hand-crafted jewelry. Since 1969, she has concentrated on crafting sculptural jewelry (for example, tide pools of precious stones surrounded by tiny ocean creatures). This work is especially prized by science fiction aficionados and continues to be her primary source of income.

Edison became involved in feminism in the 1970s and moved to San Francisco in 1980. Self-taught as a photographer, she chose this medium as a way to produce work that would combine art and social activism.

In 1989, inspired by her involvement in the Fat Acceptance/Size movement, she began making black and white photographs of unclothed fat women. This series circulated in slide shows and exhibitions and was self-published in 1994 as Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes.

In 1996, Edison began working on photographs for an exhibition and book of male nudes entitled Familiar Men, which was published in 2003. Her images of nude men have a comfortable naturalness reminiscent of Diane Arbus's photos of nudists, but with a lyrical quality instead of the biting negativity of Arbus's work.

Edison's nudes need to be seen in the context of her early reaction to the images of the Holocaust dead. She attempts to transform those images into work that honors the living body. All of Edison's nudes are intimate, informative, and sensual without being sexual.

Text--in the form of commentary and narrative by the photographic subjects--is an integral part of both series of nudes.

In 1996, Edison's participation in "Gender: Beyond Memory" at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography led to one-person exhibits in Japan and to another project, Women of Japan--a photographic essay of Japanese women from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures.

Interviews with and essays about Edison's work have appeared in publications in the United States, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Her photographs are discussed in three Canadian and U.S. video documentaries and have been featured in exhibits in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Japan. In 2001, her photographs were the subject of a solo exhibition at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan.

Tee A. Corinne


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A photograph of Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires.
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Andrews, Donna. "Laurie Edison: Respecting the Beauty of Diversity." Crescent Blues 3.5 (2000):, 2000.

Corinne, Tee A. "A Weight Lifted." Afterimage 22.5 (1994): 10-11.

Edison, Laurie Toby, and Debbie Notkin. Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes. San Francisco: Books in Focus, 1994.

Engley, Hollis L. "Plus Size Nudes Raise Eyebrows, 'Deep Fears.'" The Denver Post (September 28, 1994): 2F.

Notkin, Debbie. "Fat, Feminism, and Discarding the Unattainable Ideal." The Future of the Body. Takayuki Tatsumi, ed. Tokyo: Treville, 1998. 210-227. English translation available at

______. "Good Exposure." Radiance, The Magazine for Large Women (1994): 24-27, 34-35.


    Citation Information
    Author: Corinne, Tee A.  
    Entry Title: Edison, Laurie Toby  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated September 12, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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