Upon first discovering Francesca Woodman’s work, I became instantly fascinated by the sense of unease and nearly incomprehensible energy it evoked.
Amongst many things, I find it particularly fascinating how, even through the intentional depiction of herself, Woodman often made a constant effort to obscure herself, using long exposure times and constant motion — two factors that were often “enemies” of early photography — to create images that are quite ghostly. In a short piece written recently on the work of Woodman for the New Yorker, it is stated how “Woodman’s subject is less the known self than some shape-shifting remnant”.
If we can see self portraiture as the attempt to convey a truth about oneself, I see the self portraiture of Woodman as an attempt to convey the complication of trying to condense oneself to a single frame. At the beginning of the semester, we discussed portraiture as a way of conveying the self to the world in a favorable light, one that would articulate social status and knowledge amongst other things. In her photographs, Woodman includes things that seem to be completely separate from herself — a seemingly abandoned location, objects that behave more like found remnants than personal items — factors that diverge from what is usually expected when thinking of depicting the self.
It also worth noting that many of Woodman’s photographs seem as if they were taken in the fragments of time just before or after the optimal or desired moment. This notion of capturing otherwise overlooked moments caused me to rethink self portraiture all together. Perhaps these moments when the physical form of the self fades into something that is almost illegible or finds itself in a state that is neither here nor there is closer to depicting the true self than one would think.