Week Twenty One
Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)
House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
American photographer Francesca Woodman began taking photographs when she was 13. She was 22 when she took her own life, leaving behind an archive of around 800 images. The images are of her and others, with most being self-portraits that explore the self in relation to its surroundings. This ‘self’ is hidden a lot of the time, under mirrors, doors or covered by peeling wallpaper, exploring and using the gothic-type rooms in which they are shot. She also liked to dress up, resembling the heroine of a Victorian novel – she collected vintage clothes long before it was fashionable.
Woodman used a slow exposure to show the body as a blur; a ghost-like figure moving through time. Her work has been described as timeless, ethereal, vulnerable. Much of her work consists of small photographs in black and white; but towards the end of her life, she made a series of large-scale blueprint studies of figures for the ambitious Temple project (1980).
Woodman was born in Colorado in 1958 and spent her childhood in a farmhouse near Boulder. Her parents were and still are artists, now working from their loft in New York and responsible for looking after their daughter’s estate.
What others say:
‘There are people whose attraction to Francesca’s work is bound up with their sense of her tragic story, and without the tragic story they might not be so interested in the work. But I don’t think that, as a way of “reading” her work, this is particularly productive.’ George Woodman (father)
What she said:
Asked why she photographed herself obsessively, Woodman said simply, ‘It’s a matter of convenience – I am always available.’
In a letter to her best friend shortly before she died, she wrote, ‘My life at this point is like very old coffee-cup sediment and I would rather die young leaving various accomplishments, ie some work, my friendship with you, some other artefacts intact, instead of pell-mell erasing all of these delicate things.’
Why I like her:
There is an intensity and honesty in her work which I find compelling. She is using her body as an object, to be looked at as an image but which you can’t ‘fix’. They draw you in, these tiny images, and you hunt for her.
5252 is a project I have set myself; since the beginning of 2013 I have been sending out, via social media and my website, info and an image of a photographer of my choice. I do this to highlight and explore the range of photography that also speaks to me, and I say why within each post.
@EffervescentUK very beautiful! lights going on all over the place! x
52:Week 30, Stephen Shore, Army-Navy Store, 1973. Finding beauty in the mundane – a pioneer of colour photography pic.twitter.com/uTKiAQaA8E
Great examples of Artswork / ArtSOUTH projects at the seminar today- artists, arts orgs and schools pic.twitter.com/FhVRi4jNm9