Portraiture Research by jemma mitchell

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman (3rd April 1958-19th January 1981) was an American photographer best known for her black and white self-portrait images and images featuring woman. Woodman first produced her first self-portrait when she was thirteen years old in 1972 in Boulder, Colorado, beginning to develop her signature style of using her and her subjects bodies as a canvas and relating this to the space around her; she went on to produce at least 10,000 negatives using different cameras and film formats, using mostly medium format cameras producing 2-¼ by 2-¼ inch (6x6cm) square negatives. Most of Woodman's prints are 8 by 10 inches or smaller, which works to produce an intimate experience between the viewer and the photographer.

Woodman often shot in abandoned buildings, choosing buildings where the ruined plaster and cobwebbed floors gave her images an errie gothic feel. The purpose of Woodman's work is still up for debate but one aspect was to delve into the contrast of presence and absence, mixing the art forms of historian gothic, surrealism and 19th century spirit photography. An example of body of work that showed this was titled "self-deceit". It can be said that Woodman shot in black and white to detract from the distraction of colour and to draw an emotional connection to the subject. Interesting elements in Woodman's work was the use of having her subjects being nude, blurred (due to movement and long shutter speeds), merging their bodies with the surroundings and their faces obscured. The use of blur represents a ghostly form, the absence turning them into a form that is no longer part of society.

Relating her subjects to the space around her, they were often merged underneath wallpaper, using props such as furniture, mirrors or glass to compare the fragility of their bodies to the space, emphasizing the feeling that she wanted to disappear. Woodman also cropped images to dissect and draw attention to the human body. By using herself and her subject's bodies as expression she altered their identities to make the subjects feel grotesque. The discontinuity between the softness of her body and the gritty settings around her is what makes her photographs so influential.

When looking at Woodman's images, for future inspiration in my own photography work I would like to take away ideas of doing more self-portrait images and to create more feelings and emotion within my work so when individuals view my images they can take something away from it.

Examples of her work are shown below.

Francesca Woodman: "Untitled", 1975-1980
Self-Deceit #4 (Roma), (1977-1978)
"Untitled", Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

Man Ray

Man Ray (August 27th 1890- November 18th 1976) was an American visual artist who was well known for his Fashion and Portrait Photography, with his work being published in leading magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue . Ray displayed early artistic abilities within his childhood- choosing to pursue a career as an artist first. In 1913 whilst sharing a small shack in New York he was a frequent visitor to the 291 Gallery within the city. He then met and developed a close relationship with the gallery owner and photographer "Alfred Stieglitz" who introduced Ray to photography. Ray then spent most of his photographic career within France.

Through this Ray was a widely known representative of the Avantgarde Photography and is also seen as a pioneer of Surrealism Photography. Ray had a central stance within the Dadaism and Surrealist movements; through these movements the purpose of his photography work was to create new artistic expressions by generating work that went beyond the physical world, rejecting the incoherence of modern capitalist society, emphasizing the ridiculous. Ray was also inspired by the works of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres's image titled "La Grande Baigneuse"; and took this inspiration in his portraiture work to represent distorted female figures. Examples of Ray's portraiture work which showcased this was his series of images titled "Ingre's Violin" which was taken in 1924; Ray transformed the female body into a musical instrument. He painted sound holes onto the back of her body, playing with the idea of objectifying an animate being. Another example of work is an image titled ""Bronislava Nijinska" which was a portrait of a 19th century polish dancer. Ray also photographed various portraits throughout his life from a record of celebrities of Parisian culture within the 1920s and 1930s. He also photographed artists, musicians and performers such as Catherine Deneuve, Pablo Picasso and Lee Miller.

Important and interesting elements within Ray's work is that from 1919 he experimented with various photographic techniques such as sandwich montage (placing two negatives on top of one another), double exposures and photo collages. His other experiments within the field included rediscovering how to make camera less pictures or "photograms" as it is known (this is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects onto a surface of light-sensitive material, for example photographic paper and exposing this to light). Ray also experimented with a technique called "Solarization" which causes part of a photographic image to become negative and part positive by exposing this print or negative to a flash of light during the development; Ray was one of the first artists to use this process.

When looking at Ray's photography, for inspiration in my future photography work I would like to experiment more in old photographic processes such as the processes Ray used and film photography instead of just picking up a DSLR camera as I feel that re-creating these processes on softwares such as Photoshop just isn't the same as physically creating them yourself by carrying out the process.

Below are examples of his work.

Ingre's Violin, 1924.
Dancer Bronislava Nijinska, 1922.
Les Larmes (Glass Tears) 1932.

References: Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman | Photography | Phaidon Store. (n.d.). [online] Phaidon. Available at: http://uk.phaidon.com/store/photography/francesca-woodman-9780714844305/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

Sunday Salon » Francesca Woodman. (n.d.). [online] Utata.org. Available at: http://www.utata.org/sundaysalon/francesca-woodman/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

Self-Deceit #4 (Roma) (1977 - 1978). (n.d.). [online] Art.nationalgalleries.org. Available at: https://art.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/85848/self-deceit-4-roma-1977-1978 [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

Francesca Woodman. (n.d.). [online] Victoria Miro. Available at: https://www.victoria-miro.com/artists/7-francesca-woodman/ [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

Francesca Woodman. (n.d.). [online] En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesca_Woodman [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) | Tate. (n.d.). [online] Tate. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/francesca-woodman-10512 [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

Untitled, Francesca Woodman 1975–80 | Tate. (n.d.). [online] Tate. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-untitled-ar00357 [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

Man Ray

Man Ray Biography - Infos - Art Market. (n.d.). [online] Man-ray-works.com. Available at: http://www.man-ray-works.com/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Man Ray Portraits. (n.d.). [online] National Portrait Gallery. Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/man-ray-portraits/exhibition.php [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Man Ray | American photographer and painter. (n.d.). [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Man-Ray [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Dada. (n.d.). [online] En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dada [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Man Ray. (n.d.). [online] En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_Ray [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

What is Surreal Photography?. (2010). [online] Kaz-d.deviantart.com. Available at: http://kaz-d.deviantart.com/journal/What-is-Surreal-Photography-214230945 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Dancer Bronislava Nijinska, 1922 by Man Ray. (n.d.). [online] My Favorite Arts. Available at: https://theartstack.com/artist/man-ray/dancer-bronislava-nijinska-1922?product_referrer_user_id=430074505 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Ingre's Violin, 1924 by Man Ray. (n.d.). [online] Manray.net. Available at: http://www.manray.net/ingre-s-violin.jsp [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

Pleasurephoto, ©. (2013). Man Ray | © Pleasurephoto Room. [online] Pleasurephotoroom.wordpress.com. Available at: https://pleasurephotoroom.wordpress.com/tag/man-ray/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2017].

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jemma mitchell
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