Jacqueline Livingston: Eating Forbidden Fruit

is a memoir in photographs (work-in-progress; cover and interior pages are an imagined rendering of the proposed book).


The artist rose to prominence through controversy in the late 1970s for turning a feminist gaze upon the male nude. Through two marriages, single parenthood on welfare, she photographed her husbands and son, sans clothing.


In 1978 Cornell University refused to renew her contract because of these photographs. After the Village Voice reported on her work, an anonymous tip to a child abuse hotline prompted an investigation. The FBI harassed her at her “One Artist Gallery” in New York’s Soho district in 1982-83. Kodak confiscated film that included images of her son nude, which it deemed “pornographic.” Her resistance included a class action lawsuit against Cornell for sex discrimination, creative end runs around the closed circle of art critics and gallery owners, and living a naturalist lifestyle.


The diagnosis of breast cancer in 1992 felt like the poison pill she’d swallowed with the political repression of her art. Livingston became a founding member of the Cancer Resource Center in Ithaca, NY. She refused radiation and chemotherapy, agreed to a mastectomy in 1995, and adopted a macrobiotic diet. Livingston photographed the loss of her breast and continued to take pictures. Moving to Maui to be close to her son and his family, Jacqueline Livingston documented home births, midwifery, seascapes, and landscapes. She photographed family road trips and travels across the nation. The breast cancer metastasized to her bones in 2010, and now Livingston uses digital techniques to create surrealistic, metaphysical images and iconic metaphors. Two hundred pages with 350 images, this memoir invites the reader to bask in the warmth of loving family members, linger in the beauty of nature and the human form, and celebrate the spirit of naturalism. In this vivid exploration by the artist into the nature of representation and resistance, her creative process and personal experience are revealed.

Livingston’s groundbreaking style has had a colossal impact on her contemporaries who also gaze upon the human form, especially in commercial and fashion photography.  The mainstreaming of her peers—Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel Peter-Witkin, Nan Goldin and others—into the canon of American Art photography and the cultural rehabilitation of these sexually transgressive artists has inspired Jacqueline Livingston to share her uncensored story for the record.