“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 (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.”
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 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:
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?