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Images Spanning Love and War

Kogan's Shutterbabe Chronicles Both

When was the last time you read an autobiography of a woman under 40 who wasn't hocking a weight-loss plan, a guide to financial riches, or an enlightened path for the uninitiated after rehab? Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War is a welcome departure from these mainstays.

Deborah Copaken Kogan writes cinematically of her years as a photojournalist freelancing for a Paris agency during the late 80s and early 90s. The mainstage takes place following her college graduation and covers a variety of events in foreign locales: the Soviet pull-out of Afghanistan, heroin addiction in Zurich, the rhino war in Zimbabwe, pre-election demonstrations in Bucharest, and girl-gang street fighting in L.A.

Through Kogan's vivid detailing, we don't have to see the photos to understand that the conditions under which she shot were as dangerous as for those armed with guns. The opening images of the book reminisce about her life under a burka, snapping war images while menstrual blood runs down her legs. (She doesn't harp on the "woman" thing, but she does like to mention that she is 5'2" on a good day.)

Narrative flashbacks chronicle her formative years in suburban Maryland, trying to "hide [her] inner Pippi Longstocking under a lacquered Barbie mask" via her roles as cheerleader and homecoming queen. In other sequences, we witness her time spent in Boston's Combat Zone, photographing in and around strip clubs while earning her Harvard degree.

Each chapter is titled with a man's name, (Pascal/Pierre/Doru/Julian/Paul), bridging stories of Paris with stories of Moscow and relaying Kogan's sexual conquest of the particular locale. Kogan is unapologetic about her numerous affairs, and it is only by the law of averages that one of these chapters evolves into the name of a future husband.

It becomes evident that Kogan is writing a biography, rather than an autobiography, the story of a woman who bears little resemblance to the current Deborah Copaken Kogan, mother of two on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Because she could not stomach the inevitable "grip and grin" shots of the press conferences she would be assigned without a war to cover, this Kogan happily traded in her press pass for the babies she wanted to raise. Even so, the life of the other Kogan is gripping enough to mesmerize, and when you realize how much life she packed into those few years, you will grin.

Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War
by Deborah Copaken Kogan
Paperback - 320 pages (January 2002)
Random House; ISBN: 0375758682

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