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16 Jan 2011

Looking at Artists

I managed to squeeze in a trip into London earlier this month to spend some time wondering around a few galleries I had selected online and also spend the evening doing the outdoors at night exercise.

One of the main exhibitions I wanted to see was the work of Francesca Woodman at the Victoria Miro gallery on Wharf Road. The exhibition is due to end on the 22nd of this month I didn’t want to miss it. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Woodman is best known for her black and white photographs featuring herself or other models. Her first photograph, taken at the age of 13, is a self portrait on the end of a sofa with her hair obscuring her face. The cable release at in the foreground is blurred and creates a line dissecting the frame evenly on the diagonal. This as a frame element, creating a leading line to the second element, Woodman’s highlighted upper body, is evenly balanced with the golden section. A light source going from the outside left of the frame has created hard shadows across the scene.
Unfortunately, Woodman suffered some mental anguish early in her life and committed suicide at the age of 22. Only around 120 images have ever been published or exhibited.

Many of her photographs feature nude women as the subject, either herself or a model, though she has also used nude men. The photographs are often blurred by movement and long exposure times, merging with their surroundings, or with the subject’s faces obscured. The photographs are untitled and are known only by a location and date – a table containing her work and descriptions can be found at this Wikipedia entry.

The use of light in her photos varies been hard and soft, dependant on the mood she has intended to portray. Colour is rare in her photography and her monochrome images are often chiaroscuro, particularly when creating hard shadows. This phototgraph, featuring a model ensnared by fly paper, shows the use of a small light source light – you can see the hard shadows and highlights on the flypaper. The model is back-lit by having her face away from the source; her features have been shadowed and created a contrast with the pale walls.

Looking forward in the course material for Assignment 4, Woodman’s use of light could be used as inspiration for my submission. She has used large, open settings for much of her work, allowing her to move the subject around from the light source. However, given that the assignment asks for characteristics of the subject to be brought out using light, the details will have to be sharp and in focus. Long exposure times coupled with motion blur will most likely be unacceptable for Assignment 4. This photograph, though evocative, shows no details such as the shape, texture, form or colour of the subject, all of which are requirements.

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