Best of the Best: Francesca Woodman


“Things looked funny because my pictures depend on an emotional state… I know this is true and I thought about this for a long time. Somehow it made me feel very, very good.” – Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman © via

Francesca Woodman (April 3, 1958 – January 19, 1981), the daughter of artist-parents (her mother Betty, a ceramicist and sculptor and her father George, a painter and photographer), was an American modernist photographer who started taking pictures at the age of 13. She was that young when she took her first self-portrait.

Woodman was fond of taking black and white photographs, oftentimes of herself, nude, and set in abandoned, dilapidated, dusty, ruined, and wrecked set-ups — with crumbling & peeling paint and faded & tarnished wallpapers — that she contributed a lot to the genre of self-portraiture. Because she usually hid herself in self-portraits, her style was referred to as “anti-portraits.”

Self-portrait at thirteen © Francesca Woodman via

Whilst some critics claim that her work is narcissistic, Woodman used to reply, “It’s a matter of convenience, I am always available.” However, Woodman’s end results of her self-portraiture does not reveal her true persona: the real-life Woodman is the complete opposite. She adored dressing up a la Alice in Wonderland and sometimes even like a Victorian heroine. She used to keep a journal in which she wrote about “beautiful gingerbread men, chocolate truffles, peach mumble, [and] blackberry slump” — she explored the possibilities of transformation through cameras and she became successful in making art out of her corpse-like, mysterious disguises and poses.

Woodman’s works which imbued a singularity of style envisioned an artistic and productive life cut short. It was 1981 and she was only 22 years young when she committed suicide. Her untimely death did not only cast a shadow on the images she left behind; her passing on significantly left a window through which people can see her autobiographical life in an intense, intimate, and introspective point of view. She has consistency in signature: a rarity that’s found in young artists. If one takes a look at her stirring photographs, it may be a bit disconcerting. But also, one cannot help but feel regret because of what more could have might been. Even after 30 years since she deserted the living life, Woodman still beguilingly hides from us as seen through her incomparable masterpieces.

Francesca Woodman © via

Francesca Woodman was a photographer & a model and she was the object & the subject — both at the same time. Her stirring style of her monochromatic photographs is a mishmash of blurry, clandestine, creepy, dramatic, elusive, intimate, gothic, playful, provocative, and strange. Her series were a tie between adolescent self-obsession and artistic self-exploration & self-preservation. Out of, more or less, 800 pictures taken between 1972 and 1981, here are a few but unforgettable and highly acclaimed selection of gray-toned images by Francesca Woodman:

all photos © Francesca Woodman via,,, and

Which of these disarming Francesca Woodman photographs strike your liking the most? What other modern and surreal photographers would you like to be written about?

Do you like this article? Read more about the Best of the Best Series. Previously featured female photographers and their best shots include Diane Arbus, Ilse Bing, Julia Margaret Cameron.

written by basterda on 2011-12-02 #lifestyle #black-and-white #photographers #nude #surrealism #best-of-the-best-series #francesca-woodman #self-portraiture


  1. hanibale
    hanibale ·


  2. freckleface
    freckleface ·

    Wow what an amazing body of work! Such fascinating perspectives..

  3. tonantzin
    tonantzin ·

    WOW!! Thanks for the discovery!!! I didn't know her!

  4. pomps
    pomps ·

    amazing work!

  5. luobodingr
    luobodingr ·

    These images are so 'other-worldly'... leaves me wondering why she took her own life at such a young age? I wonder if she knows we're still viewing her images...
    Love to see more of this kind of content on the site! Keep it up!

  6. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

    Sad. She was a truly great photographer.

  7. melonhead
    melonhead ·

    She's always been my favourite photographer by far.
    I'm so glad this article has been written !

  8. bpvarona
    bpvarona ·

    Ethereal, otherworldly, but still substantial and grounded. I'm glad her photography lives on, although it's really sad she took her life at such a young age.

  9. lucaro
    lucaro ·


  10. _erikazambrano
    _erikazambrano ·

    Poetic photos.

  11. daniellepetrosa
    daniellepetrosa ·

    love her

  12. volker-jp
    volker-jp ·


  13. yyyhorn
    yyyhorn ·

    enjoyed that article!! amazing portraits!!

  14. erinwoodgatesphotography
    erinwoodgatesphotography ·

    Always been one of my faves, glad to see someone else thinks the same!

  15. theresia
    theresia ·

    amazing work!

  16. geekgoddesskilobyte
    geekgoddesskilobyte ·

    Wow! I am so glad to be introduced to this amazing artist.

  17. j_robert
    j_robert ·

    breathtaking. i saw an amazing documentary about her recently

  18. lenyvole
    lenyvole ·

    Such a amazing woman! And her photos are beautiful and sad in the same time.

  19. moon_chyld13
    moon_chyld13 ·

    She has always been a favorite. I wish I could accomplish half of what she does in her portraits. There is a wonderful documentary about her and her work that I highly recommend called The Woodmans.

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