Francesca Woodman’s images I find both a little erotic and disturbing. Woodman clearly a lot of pent up sexual-tension with an artistic voice wanting to be heard. If I was to say that there was an element of narcissism in Woodman’s photos I think I would be wrong. I think that she was probably insecure about herself and her looks, yes she was very self-indulgent which may sadly have lead her to her death. I believe there are indications of her moods of depression in her images. We all sometime feel that we could just disappear and I think that Woodman acts out some of these wished imaginings in her photos. I personally, think that Woodman’s images don’t need accompanying text for the images to be appreciated. However, they communicate best as set.
Woodman clearly had mental-health issues and I wonder that perhaps the wider issue here is the stigma attached to this form of health-issue and the lack of understanding and help available for sufferers. Many artist suffer from depression as many artists by there nature are bipolar in some degree and perhaps educational institutions such as schools and colleges / universities should also watch for this and offer counselling and support. Woodman committed suicide in 1981 and over 30 years later we are still loosing talent through our lack of understanding of how to help.
Brotherus has used her naked body to put ‘a spotlight’ on herself. I think that her nakedness not only reflects her sense of vulnerability but also her lock of power and sense of naked honesty. She uses nakedness to grab the attention of the audience / viewer in order to pass on her intended message.
For me Brotherus images instil mixed feelings of sympathy and admiration for both her struggle and sadness and her honesty and dignified strength.
Some may interpret Brotherus’s work as a little self-indulgent; but I would disagree. Brotherus has used herself as a subject to bring to peoples attention issues that are often hidden. These issues she has experienced for herself and therefore can tell the story from the inside. By using herself as the model and subject she enforces the truth and her own honesty.
I don’t believe that this style of images can be imitated purely for image sake by ‘outsiders’. These images come from the heart and therefore if mimicked would lack the context that these images were created to represent. These images have been made to represent the artist own feelings and emotions and whilst the images can be replicated the emotional message the originals carry can not without some honest intent from the new artist. In this way only another artist going through similar experiences can produce similar work and would then have his or her own style and signature. Anything else would be a false facsimile.
As mentioned above, I believe that the motivation of these artist are to raise awareness of issues, that are often hidden from public-sight. Naturally these issues have to be close and personal to the artist in order for the artist to be able to be an insider and produce honest and truthful images.
In this last project of this section, I have looked at the concept of creating images that convey a sense of the unseen, for example feelings and emotions. I have already started to think about this form of art with my last exercise of creating images for a poem and this project is moving this theory forward in to use of every day life and personal experiences.
I have been introduced to three different projects by photography students as examples of creating images out of the unseen. The first is by Peter Mansell (My Space) who has taken photos of objects and even of empty spaces that represent his disability and his life. I very much like these simple but well thought out and composed images. I got a very real sense of his visits to the hospital and Peter’s life at home.
The second project is by Dewald Botha (Ring Road) I liked the interesting perspective and sense of being on the outside. The timing of the photos suggest early morning with a cold mist and overcast looking skies this could of course just be smog but it evokes a sense of cold and the unusual locations of not belonging almost like trespassing.
The third project is by Jodie Taylor (Memories of Childhood) the link for this only illustrates three photos but I was able to understand the sentiment and sense of nostalgia as we see these places of her childhood. I think that all of the photos from all three projects are cleverly conceived and nicely composed. The project that resonates most with me was Dewald Botha’s, ‘Ring Road’. I have been in sales for much of my life and I was a Territory Sales Rep. I was working from home; so I was always a little bit of an outsider even with my own company as I would only visit their offices for sales meetings and training days. I have often found that we set boundaries for ourselves in both our professional and personal life and boundaries is the subject that Botha explores. I often used the M25 to travel to all compass points of my sales territory and his choice of subject matter struck a cord.
This concept of loss of authorial control doesn’t mean a lot to me. The point of creating an image, sculpture, music or literature is to express your ideas in to something of substance; but how other people choose to interpret the work is up to them. Hopefully if you have done a good job the meaning of that idea is obvious and will be experienced as you intended it to be. (Unless the idea was to be deliberately ambiguous and to enjoy watching others make interesting interpretations.) A photograph can be easily re-used re-labelled and re-contextualized and perhaps as students and later as photographers we will do this to other peoples work and one day others will do it with ours. That’s life. Moreover, if a photographer is employed by a magazine then that employer must have rights over the editorial decisions. A wedding photographer on the other hand has more control; but at the end of the day the Bride and Groom can always re-frame the pictures and add their own captions etc. In my opinion it’s not worth loosing our hair over this idea of authorial control.
Susan Sontag, On Photography, (1979) London, Penguin, ISBN: 978-0-14-005397-5.
This book by Susan Sontag is a collection of essays discussing how photography has influenced the world since its invention and how it has played a part in the surrealist art movement in the 20th Century.
The book was first published in 1977 and although photography has moved on she spends a lot of time discussing how photography was first introduced accepted or not and how it came to be the most enduring and influential part of the surrealist movement. She also looks at how photographs are used and how they can be re-used.
Topics and points to note:
In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge out notion of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.
Photos are a grammar and even more importantly, an ethics of seeing.
Photos give us the sense that we can hold the world in our hands.
In photographs the image is also an object.
As object they can be collected, bought & sold, cherished, thrown away, lost & found, etc, etc.
Photographs furnish evidence, they appear to provide proof when something is in doubt.
A photograph justifies, for example through use of surveillance and is a presumption of proof that something exists.
Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that like all mass art form, photography is not practiced by people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defence against anxiety and a tool of power.
Photographs can abet desire and emotions of morality.
The industrialisation of photography permitted its rapid absorption into bureaucratic ways of running society…photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment – touchstones and confirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic. Photographs were enrolled in the service of important institutions of control, notably the family and the police, as symbolic object and as pieces of information….many important documents are not valid unless they have affixed to them, a photographic-token of the citizen’s face.