Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s

Following the visit to the Photographers Gallery, I have been brimming with ideas for my next project.This mostly retrospective show got me thinking.

The first floor I visited was very poiniant. The work featured a modern day woman called Joanne who is multi talented, fit and attractive. On entering the room I was met by 3 large light boxes all displaying individual images of her, an apparent model wearing fashionable sports clothing. Behind the boxes, a projected film documented her quest to redefine her image, following a topless photo scandal. Through individual brand management she wanted to change the way she is perceived by the public. Privately she exposed her vunrability and anxieties.

In the following class we discussed this work and many felt Joanne was very self indulgent and it didn’t harmonise with the work on display on the lower floors. I had started to watch the film halfway through and was scrambling to find the concept behind the images.Yes it was self indulgent, but this display of a modern women was a stark contrast to the apparent free spirited feminists of the 70s who were clearly not concerned by how people percieved themselves or their work. Perhaps this was the purpose of the contrasting commission by the PG?

I look at these images and question whether she is being true to herself or is she putting on a mask?

A quote by Joanne is very telling – “I feel like I’m cheating if I say: I am a model. I am a teacher. I am a boxer. I am an artist. I am a chameleon. I feel I am nothing, even though I am all of that and more.”

Joanne: Film by Simon Fujiwara. Images byΒ 

The lower floors featured images from the 1970s. The following images are part of Portfolio of Models by Martha Wilson. She dresses up as female archetypes, all of which still exist in today’s society.

This got me thinking about how fashion plays a large role in how women express or present themselves in society. The increased exposure to images depicting the “perfect woman” detracts many women from being true to themselves and instead subscribe to how the media portrays women.

Fast fashion has a detimental effect on our enviroment. Creating a new look every season. Advertising lures some women into believing that they need an buy an item or their lives will be incomplete! Clothes are being made cheaply by exploiting young low paid workers and it is encouraging mass consumerism and high waste levels.

As someone who has a great interest in the protection of our natural environment, I am thinking of ways that I could express this through photography. I had discussed in class an idea of observing the consumer environment; the subliminal methods used to inflence consumers on what they buy and why.

Cindy Sherman’s self portrait work Untitled (Bus Riders 1) featured a series of portraits exploring how peoples identities are determined by their visual characteristics, clothing and poise. By deconstructing the subjects from their environment, the viewer is encouraged to inspect the individuals solely on their appearance.

In an interview with the Guardian she said that “dressing up was partly a means of escape but, to be really phychological about it, it was also partly, ‘If you dont like me this way, how about you like me this way?'”

I intend to watch Guest of Cindy Sherman for further insight into who she really is.

I sensed humour in Renate Eisenegger’s Hochhaus, a series of images of a woman ironing the floor in a high rise corridor. A mundane task in a mundane setting. The images were printed onto laminated wood and presented without a glass frame, so no distracting reflections. I am interested in the possibility of printing on wood for my project.

I was pleased to see Francesca Woodman’s work on display, having discovered her through further research on my previous project. She suffered with depression and sadly committed suicide in her early twenties. Her images are either self portraits or feature another woman. Most of the prints are intentionally small (max 8×10 inches) to create intimacy between the photograph and viewer. There was a life size image on the stairs of the gallery, an untitled portrait (see below). She uses the female body to respond to a space by interacting with shapes and forms, often using multiple exposures and slow shutter speeds to create blur and movement.

Since I started exploring the subject of women in society, the UN has named Wonder Women as an Honoury Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls……really??!!

http://www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk; http://www.theguardian.com; wikipedia.org

Assessment criteria 1.


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