Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The feminist behind the flash

Feminism as an ideology has snaked throughout all elements of the media, all the more prominently in the last couple of years. I use the word ideology, as Feminism unfortunately does not yet hold a quintessential place within modern societal norms. Photography as one of these media outlets, and one very close to my heart, has become an instrument through which the Romanticised image of woman can finally portray festivities of feminism as well as femininity. Francesca Woodman was a striking photographer who has always remained on my radar- a beautiful woman whose inner turmoil and intelligence sent her to her demise, yet during her shortened career, she was able to portray with conviction, the concept of hiding herself in plain sight. Her monochromatic self-portraits utilised rustic yet familiar settings with dark shadows and stark light, as well as the occasional addition of a long exposure. The result of this was the encouragement of a kind of Magic Realism, where extrinsic objects seemed to echo normality when witnessed with an unperceiving eye. Furthermore, her feminine shape is stripped of its erotic enticement and is instead used as a futuristic ghost that portrays the potential for a contemporary culture, in which the form explores the physiognomy of a person rather than igniting sexual desire.
Woodman however, would not necessarily appeal to viewers of the 21st century in the same way as present-day photographers Aneta Bartos, Amanda Charchian, Shae DeTar, Olivia Locher, and Marianna Rothen, the women who brought us the “Pheromone Hotbox” exhibition. These women intimately expose the bodies and gestures of other women rather than using themselves as models as well as setting their portraits in easily accessible landscapes (perhaps a sign of how far we have come since Woodman’s time). The name of the exhibition excites ideas of the biological processes that are frequented during such a photo-shoot, sexual or not. By accepting the intimate gaze of onlookers, specifically female, these photographers effortlessly disregard male participation in any processes they are generating and thus re-introduce feminism through a new angle. I implore you to look into this exhibition to get an idea of what I’m talking about. (Browse online)
I find that most of my procrastination time nowadays is spent meandering through various photography forums inescapably bearing either feminine or feminist visuals. Perhaps this says something about me, or perhaps it touches on the inexorable hand of feminism as a natural progression- an ideal that doesn’t induce one to ask “if”, but rather “when”.