Here is Faye Dunaway shot in black and white, holding a weighty Nikon to her eye, and adjusting the focus ring; here she is again, this time in color, the camera pulled back and uncertainty clouding her stare. The pair of prints—which show publicity photos from the 1978 thriller Eyes of Laura Mars—are from Anne Collier’s ongoing series “Woman with a Camera,” which explores the power dynamics of taking pictures. Photographed on a plain white background, the text accompanying one press photo reports that the movie is about the vision of a woman who foresees murders and that it was produced, directed, and written by men. In Collier’s coolly expressive work, on view in her first career retrospective that opened last fall at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and travels next to the Aspen Art Museum, she exposes the sometimes sexist or sublime patterns lurking in popular culture.
Using the slick mechanisms of advertising, she isolates old forms of media—photos, pages from books, cassette tapes, and record albums—and reshoots them. Her own photographs draw attention to the assumptions embedded in these artifacts, often about what it means for women to look and be looked at.
“Her work feels timely and relevant because we’re so photo-obsessed right now,” says Michael Darling, chief curator at MCA Chicago, who organized the recently closed show. “Taking a retrospective look at these technologies and how women have been portrayed in them prepares you to think about how photos are being used today,” says Darling. While Collier digs through older analog media, her work is useful for thinking about contemporary depictions of women, such as iPhone selfies of Kim Kardashian. “It’s the same kind of woman with a camera,” says Darling. “In many ways we haven’t come that far from these seemingly super-sexist pictures that Anne has uncovered in her photo archeology. I’m excited about how her work can create visual literacy and inspire critical thinking in our audiences.”
Rebecca Robertson is co-editor of New York Photography Diary. She is a freelance writer, curator and photo editor in Queens. She studied photography and art history at Bryn Mawr College and received her MFA in photography and related media from the School of Visual Arts. She has worked in the New York art world for more than 10 years. She has written about photography for ARTnews magazine and curated shows, most recently a series of benefit exhibitions for UNICEF.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2014 issue of ARTnews. “Anne Collier” is on view at the Aspen Art Museum from April 10 to June 28, 2015.
Images ©Anne Collier/Anton Kern Gallery/MCA Chicago