The first photographer I came across which I feel relates well to my assignment is Cindy Sherman. I found her in the book Knowing Women, written by Helen Crowley and Susan Himmelweit. Featured is her ‘film stills’ body of work in New York, 1980s, which is said to have looked at feminism of the time. “She took photos of herself that were anything but self-portraits; photos that stuck two fingers at the then received wisdom that the camera never lies – her camera always lied. And, through her deceits, she looked for truths about identity, vulnerability and power. The feminists claimed her as theirs, as did the postmodernists, the post-structuralists, the post-everythings.” (Hattenstone, 2011) Her film stills acted like movies, with their own narratives. She stuck up for what she believed was right, she was important in the media’s reconstruction of reality.
Sherman features in all her photographs. As a “Hitchcock heroine, a busty Monroe, an abuse victim, a terrified centrefold, a corpse, a Caravaggio, a Botticelli, a mutilated hermaphrodite sex doll, a man in a balaclava, a surgically-enhanced Hamptons type, a cowgirl, a desperate clown” (Hattenstone, 2011) Obviously they are all staged, this is important in us knowing that she is trying to get a message across. “Sherman’s work is more than either a witty parody of media images of women or a series of self-portraits in a search for identity. The two are completely mixed up, as are the imagery and experience of femininity for all of us.” (Crowley, 1992, page 224)
Sherman had started out painting, and is still a good copyist. But painting at the time was a male preserve, she says. “There’s a theory that there were so many women photographers at the time because we felt nobody else was doing it. We couldn’t or didn’t really want to go into the male-dominated painting world, so since there weren’t any artists who were using photographs, we thought, ‘Well, yeah, let’s just play with that.’ ” (Hattenstone, 2011)
Barbara Kruger is another influential feminist photographer/artist. You would have seen her art around, maybe on billboards, magazine covers or giant advertisements, even if you don’t know who she is. Her pieces were usually limited to the colour black, white and red. Kruger takes images from the mass media and pastes her own slogans and questions on them to make point about social stereotypes and consumerist culture. She makes them memorable and visible as a way to force viewers to think about them, to stick in the mind. “The fantasy-fueled appetite to consume became Kruger’s enduring subject when she left for the downtown art world, where many of her early pieces were formal verbal defacements of glossy magazine pages, glamorous graffiti. One of her most famous works proclaimed, “I shop therefore I am.”” (Rosenbaum, 2012) Basically she mimicked glamour magazines and all to do with sexist, women glamour.
I have researched Kruger’s work as she explores the powerful role that mass media images play on society, especially women. Her work questions the issues of consumerism, feminine sexuality, desire and individuality.
“Look, we’re all saddled with things that make us better or worse. This world is a crazy place, and I’ve chosen to make my work about that insanity.” Barbara Kruger.
William Selden is an interesting photographer. His photography itself doesn’t relate to my assignment, however I am interested in the way he has presented a couple of his images on his Tumblr website. These two photographs are still images, yet very fascinating in the way that they move in and out of focus, as if they were a very short clip. This is something I will look into when choosing how to present my final work. I am thinking along the lines of printing my final images and putting them in a frame together, but then also doing a similar thing to Selden, and posting these same images on my blog as they go in and out of focus. It would suit the images I have taken of the head shots of women facing the camera as I could hide their face with this out of focus tool. I have been thinking about this as I was questioned by my lecturer why I need to have the women’s face in the photographs if I’m exploring the notion of hair and why women feel pressured to have their hair a certain way. This was a valid argument from my lecturer which I need to give more thought into.
Hattenstone, S (2011) Cindy Sherman: Me, Myself and I [online] avalible at http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/jan/15/cindy-sherman-interview
Women and Art (2010) Brittany Makufka Cindy Sherman- Feminist artist [online] available at http://philandfem.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/cindy-sherman-feminist-artist.html
Rosenbaum, R (2012) Barbara Krugers artwork speaks truth to power [online] available at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/barbara-krugers-artwork-speaks-truth-to-power-137717540/?no-ist
William Selden [online] available from http://williamselden.tumblr.com
Crowley, H. and Himmelweit, S. (1992) Knowing Women:feminism and knowledge. United Kingdom: Cambridge: Polity Press in Association with with Open University