Francesca Woodman most frequently utilised technique was the time exposure, which had the effect of blurring and diffusing her figure, and contributes largely to the evanescent, yearning quality of these ethereal meditations upon the pain of existence. Her imagery might be considered usefully as a series of stills from an extended theatrical performance – dancelike in mode – upon the presentation of the self, or more specifically upon the dissembling of the self. (Gerry Badger). As Badger says, the use of slow shutter speeds, creating the blurred effect of herself as a subject is somewhat unnerving. I think she used her photography as a way of self-expression to both show her mental state but also as something to hide behind. Curator Kim Knoppers says this in the British Journal of Photography “It’s very relevant in our times to show her work. Now, we have the selfie, and people are quite obsessed with themselves – as was she. Of course, she used her body as a ‘canvas’. It’s about her, but also not about her.” By having herself naked in many of the images, she is showing a sense of innocence and vulnerability. On looking at the images (and knowing the mental state of Woodman herself), I felt quite voyeuristic, in that I was intruding on someones self-representation of themselves. “It’s very relevant in our times to show her work. Now, we have the selfie, and people are quite obsessed with themselves – as was she. Of course, she used her body as a ‘canvas’. It’s about her, but also not about her.”
Elina Brotherus uses her series Annunciation to explain her five-year struggle to conceive a child using IVF. The series aimed to challenge stereotypical views of motherhood by addressing issues such as gender roles, the body and the identity of individuals within the family unit. Brotherus pictures herself month after month in-front of a succession of negative pregnancy tests. She photographs question the term ‘mother’, suggesting that it can stem from intention rather than being bound to biology or the physical act of having a child. (The Photographers Gallery). When looking at this series, you immediately feel empathy towards Brotherus, the viewer understands that conception isn’t always easy and many people take it for granted. In society, I think many woman are looked down upon if the are not able to produce a child, as many would say its the most natural thing a woman could do. I found that this series, makes you question your own existence in a way that if one was created ‘naturally’, it is not normally considered that there are women that find it difficult. By Brotherus having herself naked, she is able to show a vulnerable side to herself and her images, and adds a ‘raw’ feel to them. The small details of the pregnancy tests dotted around the scene, and the expressions on her face manages to fully explain what is happening in the photographs without the need of accompanying text.
Gillian Wearing for her 2003 series of photographs Album, donned silicon prosthetics, carefully reconstructing old family snapshots, transforming herself into her family members. She explains: “I was interested in the idea of being genetically connected to someone but being very different. There is something of me, literally, in all those people—we are connected, but we are each very different.” (summarized by Jennifer Bayles, Albright-Knox Art Gallery). When looking at the series, I think it encourages the viewer to consider one’s own family album and the characteristics that are inherited from different members of them. I think it makes the viewer focus on their own identity. Out of the three series mentioned in this post, I think this has the least impact on the viewer, this could be because the images aren’t as shocking, and less thought provoking. In spite of this, it is a different way of an artist to use self-expression without directly having themselves in the image.