Photographer focused lens on women and their guns
Nancy Floyd bought her first gun because she wanted to understand her brother’s love of guns, and, by default, ultimately learned about him. He died in Vietnam when he was twenty-one and she was twelve. Operation Desert Storm ignited Floyd’s curiosity when she saw a neighbor, a veteran, crating his guns. “I thought of my brother, who loved guns and wanted to be a gunsmith.” She thought she’d soon tire of her gun, but found she enjoyed shooting and the people she met. They may have differed politically, she says, “but we never talked about that.” She paged through Women & Guns magazine, attended Ladies Nights at shooting ranges, and watched the film “Thelma and Louise.”
Her photographic series of women with guns will be on display at the Joshua Tree Art Gallery in Joshua Tree, CA, from Sept. 8 through Sept. 30.
Her book, She’s Got a Gun, is a visual history of women with guns. “The idea of women and guns really began to intrigue me.” Floyd had worked as an artist, primarily in documentary photography, for years by then. She’d already photographed nuclear power technicians, for instance.
In 2008, Temple University Press published the book–a mashup of Texas childhood memories, historical and contemporary photos, and research about American gunwomen, in fact and fiction. She singled out women who shoot competitively and for sport, women with guns in films and TV, and women in the military and police forces. Her environmental portraits of these women in their homes or at gun ranges blur the lines, she says, between portraiture and documentary.
The book also charts the rise of women and guns in films and television. By the 1980s, “women who had guns didn’t apologize for having a gun. They ‘owned their guns,’ ” Floyd says. She cites earlier stars, too, including silent film star Texas Guinan (“The Gunwoman”), Diana Rigg (“The Avengers”), Joan Crawford (“Johnny Guitar”), Barbara Stanwyck (“Annie Oakley”) , and Pam Grier (Foxy Brown) as female leads who carried guns with authority. “Grier and other female heroines in the Blaxploitation films were all powerful,” Floyd says. She’s Got a Gun also includes archival information about famed gunwomen Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane, and others. “Annie Oakley demonstrated the ability to market herself as a virtuous woman—she spoke and dressed well, and rode sidesaddle—who worked in the Wild West Shows. She wrote articles for newspapers and, from the start, managed her image. She was savvy about how she was perceived.” She conformed to the era’s expectations of ladylike behavior.
Nancy Floyd found her brother through her work on She’s Got a Gun; the journey took fifteen years. She discovered that he, like her, was an artist. “While I was writing the book, I went through his military information and examined his notebooks. He would take notes from his classes and transfer them neatly into another notebook. That is who he was—an artist with guns. He did designs in the stocks of the guns. He was just as fascinated and curious about what he could do as a gunsmith as I am about making art.” To learn more about Nancy and her work, visit nancyfloyd.com