Author Archive

Re-picturing the self: Francesca Woodman’s self-portraiture by Francesca Marcaccio


Images courtesy of Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman’s self-portraiture is deliberately enigmatic. If she aspires to be enigmatic, she also employs enigma to challenge the traditions of self-portraiture. Her self-portraits are duplicitous; the clarity of the photograph appears to present an intelligible subject and yet Woodman continually facilitates the subject’s withdrawal from our gaze.

In her self-portraits the artist often pioneered new forms of relational aesthetics aimed towards formal intervention as opposed to a biographical display that might be intended to assert one’s identity. In Self Portrait at Thirteen (Colorado,1972), the artist’s long dark hair obscures her face hindering the camera’s inherent descriptive and informative qualities.Untitled,Providence 1977

 

In Untitled (Providence, Rhode Island,1975), the artist disappears into herself. Three nude women, one of whom is Woodman, hold photographs of the artist’s face over their own. A fourth print, which differs from the other three, is pinned on the wall beside them.One of the models Sloan Rankin notes that Woodman made a sketch of the idea before executing it photographically. “It is a picture about physical measurement, and Woodman writes, under the sketch, a picture about being my model.”1 Disappearing behind a self-portrait, Francesca Woodman conceals her identity. The image’s focus on surface representation obliterates the spectator’s capacity to identify the subject it represents.

 

Untitled,New York,1979If the quintessential self-portrait announces this is who I am, the New York series (1979) announces rather I am another, similar to Arthur Rimbaud’s radical announcement of modern identity in the mid nineteenth century. His famous poem ‘Je est un autre’
(I is someone else) has been employed to describe many forms of subversive visions of mutable identity.

In one of the New York images, Untitled (1979) she holds a fishbone against her spine. Here she is not fantasising about being another through a performance of identity, as is the case for Rimbaud; instead her body is read as an autonomous entity but at the same time as part of her surroundings.

Rather than engaging with the well-established medium of portraiture in a conventional manner, Woodman is keenly aware that by altering the medium’s modes one can reveal the most profound truths about the subject.

 

 

 

Image credits: Untitled (Providence, Rhode Island,1975), Untitled (New York 1979).

Francesca Marcaccio (b.1981) is a writer, artist, and curator specialised in photography. She is based in London, UK. Her research focuses on photographic archives and documentary photography and their relationship with issues of memory and history within contemporary art practice.She holds degrees in Art History, Iconographic Research and Photography.Recently she completed the RCA/Curating Conversations Programme.She writes for DUST Magazine and MyTemplArt.

 

 

Constructing Worlds @ The Barbican reviewed by Cristina Calvo

The photographic medium is in a unique position to study, analyse and admire architecture and since its inception architecture has been an important subject for the photographer. Constructing Worlds investigates this symbiotic relationship between photography and modern architecture and for anyone interested in either field, it’s a must-see.

Curated by Alona Pardo and Elias Redstone, the exhibition comprises the work of 18 prominent artists working from the 1930s up until the present day. The show commences with the work of Berenice Abbott who documented the rapid growth of Manhattan and its surrounding areas from 1935 to 1939. The striking juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers and classical buildings is shown off to great effect.

Around the same time Abbott shot these images, Walker Evans was embarking on his documentation of the Great American Depression for the Farm Security Administration. Evans’ work tells of the poverty-stricken families and individuals affected by the crisis and how the Depression manifested in the landscape of the times.

After the WWII, architecture began to draw inspiration from modern structures, furniture and lifestyle. The work of Julius Shulman clearly captured this trend in the works he published in Arts and Architecture magazine during the 50s and 60s. It is also worth mentioning the exhaustive documentation of Le Courbusier’s architectural project Chandigarh, India, by Lucien Hervé during the same period.

By the end of the 60s and throughout the 70s, photographers such as Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Thomas Struth and the Bechers turned their cameras to the suburban, the industrial and the everyday. Perhaps influenced by the work of Walker Evans and Eugène Atget, these photographers focused on the banal as a means of representing cultural, economic and social values.

Form, light and shadow took on an elevated importance in the years that would follow for photographers such as Luigi Ghirri, Hélène Binet, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Luisa Lambri.

The photographs of Andreas Gursky, Simon Norfolk, Guy Tillim, Bas Princen, Nadav Kander and Iwan Baan frequently portrayed ruined buildings, sublime images of industrial transformation and digitally manipulated spaces. In this focus, they elucidate the social, political and economic consequences of globalisation.

Large photographic prints dominate the show and invite the viewer to both indulge in minute detail as well as to step back and take in the entire image. If the show can be criticised on one point, it is that the space given for Kanders work is insufficient in size to show his work to its best advantage. Yet overall, this is a beautifully curated, first-class exhibition and well worth a visit.

The exhibition runs until 11 January 2015

Cristina Calvo (b. 1982) is a visual artist based in London. She holds a degree from University of Westminster where she is teaching a short course in photography. Part of Cristina’s photographic practice is related to the analysis of the urban environment through the architecture and social behaviour. Her work In Out and Around was select for PHE13 in Madrid. In her more recent work Cristina explores trauma, identity and disease.

Black Chronicles II @ Autograph ABP reviewed by Magali Avezou

images courtesy of Autograph ABP

Black Chronicles II is the first exhibition to be launched in conjunction with The Missing Chapter, a research project which seeks to explore the photographic narratives of migration and cultural diversity in relation to Britain’s colonial past. Presented by Autograph ABP – a foundation devoted to researching black narratives – the show displays more than 200 photographs exploring black identity in Victorian Britain.

The walls of the ground floor are painted black and display 55 images by the London Stereoscopic Company. These images are part of the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images. 30 portraits depict the Africa choir that toured Britain between 1891-93. On the second floor, over 100 cartes-de-visites picture visiting performers, dignitaries, servicemen, missionaries, and students. All the photographs were taken in England before 1938.

Among the images displayed are painterly black and white portraits showing very confident sitters. These images stand in stark contrast to the propaganda representations of black subjects which were prevalent before the 2nd world-war. The exhibition Bon Baiser des Colonies, showed at Les Rencontres d’Arles last summer – showed a very different representation of black people under colonial rule shot by French photographs at the beginning of the XIXth century in North-Africa and make for a striking contrast.

The portraits displayed in this exhibition are dignifying. The subjects are well dressed, some wearing suits and hats and others wearing luxurious African dress. They adopt confident postures, elegant gestures and self- contained gazes. These portraits were taken at a time in which studio portraiture was the preserve of a privileged minority. As argued by the curators Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy, this fact raises questions regarding the ideological conditions in which these images were produced and what messages they intend to communicate.

As stated in the press release, Black Chronicles II “redresses persistent ‘absence’ within the historical record.” Through displaying these images, the curators point to an alternative history of black identity and raising questions about the place of the subjects in the colonial order and in British society. The show and programme, is the beginning of an exciting task of research for historians to interpret this impressive material.

Image credit: London Stereoscopic Company studios, 1891. Courtesy of © Hulton Archive/Getty Images

securedownload 2Magali is a London-based arts professional specialising in photography. She holds degrees in History and History of Arts (DEA, Grenoble II France), Art Management (DESS, Paris X France) and Photography (MA, London College of Communication, UK). She is has worked for  for art magazines The Eyes and FIFA Annuel and held positions at Troika Editions, Payne||Shurvell and Koenig books. She is interested in philosophical and anthropological notions of displacement and exoticism and its representation in contemporary photography. 

A letter from the editor

Photography’s roots in the United Kingdom stretch back to early experimentations with the medium. Although it was a Frenchman, Nicéphore Niépce who was the first to capture an image on film, it was an Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot who invented the calotype, a process which was a major forerunner to 19th century developments in the medium.

Fast forward a few centuries and the UK continues to be a fertile ground for developments in the medium. Admittedly, museums in the UK were sluggish in accepting photography as an art form, especially when compared with their American counterparts. However, in the last decade photography has won its hard-fought battle for institutional recognition in the UK. Tate Modern, for example, appointed its first ever Curator of Photography and International Art in 2009.

If we step outside the gallery space we see a similar trend in academia. In the past photography was little more than a footnote in most Art History courses in the UK. Yet today many Art History degrees offer photographic history modules and four universities in the UK now offer MA degrees specifically in The History of Photography.

Right, point made, photography is hotter than ever and LPD realises the craze isn’t confined to London. Yet, we felt it was important to narrow our focus to ensure that no stone is left unturned in bringing our readers the most up-to-date information.

In doing so we will be featuring all manner of photography exhibitions and events. This will include blockbuster shows but we also want to dig a little deeper to unearth the hidden gems. Many institutions for example draw on their permanent collections to create small displays. We also hope to keep our finger on the pulse of the latest work amongst emerging and graduate photographers.

We also want LPD to be a place where you can actually see what’s buzzing on the photography scene. Through a focus on image-sharing we envision LPD as both a textual and visual source of information. We hope to see LPD burgeon into a participatory hub where everyone can share their experiences of London’s photography scene.

Suffice to say, we’ve come a long way from Fox Talbot’s experimentations with the medium and as such LPD will be keeping tuned to photography’s expanding field. So if you have an event coming up that you feel fits the bill, send it our way!

That’s all for now.

Sarah Allen, Editor LPD

A Letter From The Editors

bourke-white4In 1930, New York’s Museum of Modern Art began collecting photography, making it one of the first institutions to consider the medium a legitimate art form. Seven years later, Beaumont Newhall mounted the museum’s first large-scale exhibition of photographic works. This show was central in establishing an enduring place for photography in the arts and Newhall, who went on to become the first Director of Photography at MoMA in 1940, contributed a lifetime’s worth of scholarship to the history of the medium.

Since then, as the city has grown, the volume and scope of art in New York has expanded exponentially, and with it, photography. The medium’s relationship to the broader art world has proven slippery and hard to pin down at times, but its current place demands respect. It is easily found among the exhibition schedules of galleries and museums, in the roster of post-graduate university courses and as the topic of scholarly symposia. Furthermore, it has surpassed the sometimes-rigid boundaries of scholarship; contemporary photography is as present in the work of amateur and emerging artists as vintage photography is in museum collections.

Here is where we come in. László Moholy-Nagy’s prediction that “the illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera” has become resoundingly true, and New Yorkers have no excuse for ignorance. In this city, you can find galleries and museums showing every kind of photography from all over the world, from Daguerrotypes to documentary photography and salt prints to the most contemporary interpretations of the medium. At New York Photography Diary, we cover the entirety of the New York photography scene, from museum retrospectives of established artists to small shows from emerging talent. We’ll make you aware of lectures, events and auctions, and frame it all with articles provided by our writers.

We want to make this diverse world inclusive and comprehensive, so that everyone has a chance to get involved.

Catherine and Rebecca, Co-Editors, NY Photography Diary

 

credit: Margaret Bourke-White, Chrysler Building, 1930-31.


© 2019 New York Photography Diary. All rights reserved. Background image: Ea Vasko Reflections of the Ever-Changing #32, 2010, digital c-print, diasec (matte); Video image: image by Instaberlinerin, artwork by Cecile Wesolowski, pictured Denia Kazakou/ Redd Gallery; Festival image by Vanessa Bouziges