10 Things You Might Not Know about Francesca Woodman

 

"Polka Dots, 1975-75" Image from cvltnation.com
“Polka Dots, 1975-75” Image from cvltnation.com

 

Francesca Woodman is one of the most celebrated photographers of today, with top galleries exhibiting her large collection of images even 35 years after her death. Her body of work questions broader concepts of self, gender, body image and identity, depicted through ethereal experiments with black and white photography.

In honour of the late-artist, here are 10 things you might not know about her astounding images.

 

Francesca Woodman and her father, George, in a photograph she took in 1980. Image from pinterest.com
Francesca Woodman and her father, George, in a photograph she took in 1980. Image from pinterest.com

 

1. A majority of her work is still unpublished

Francesca Woodman had an unfortunately short career – the photographer took her life at the age of 22 – but left an estate of 10,000 negatives and over 800 prints, of which only 120 have ever been published or exhibited.

"Untitled, New York 1979". Image from loeildelaphotographie.com
“Untitled, New York 1979”. Image from loeildelaphotographie.com

2. She comes from a creative family

Woodman was encouraged from an early age to practice art by her mother Betty, who was a ceramicist and her father George, a painter. Both her parents were members of the University of Colorado’s Fine Arts Faculty.

"Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italie 1978". Image from loeildelaphotographie.com
“Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italie 1978”. Image from loeildelaphotographie.com

3. She was snapping photos before she could drive

Expressing an interest in photography at the tender age of 13, Woodman’s father bought her her first camera, and she began her black and white experimental photography.

 

"On Being an Angel, 1977" Image from modernamuseet.se
“On Being an Angel, 1977” Image from modernamuseet.se

 

4. She attended one of America’s best photo universities

Aside from a few lessons during boarding school, Woodman was mostly self-taught in photography prior to enrolling at the Rhode Island School of Design.

"Untitled, Rome, Italy, 1977-78". Image from bjp-online.com
“Untitled, Rome, Italy, 1977-78”. Image from bjp-online.com

5. She held her first exhibition while studying abroad

While most study abroad experiences are marked by copious alcohol and a general attitude of “what happens in Europe stays in Europe”, Woodman was busy organising her first exhibition. Hosted at Rome’s Maldoror bookshop, the photographer held her first show at the Surrealist and Futurist store while living in the Italian capital during her year abroad.

"Providence, Rhode Island 1976" Image from tate.org.uk
“Providence, Rhode Island 1976” Image from tate.org.uk

6. She was a real fan of selfies

The original queen of the selfie, Woodman’s obscure photographs concentrate mainly on herself. Observing this, she once stated: “It’s a matter of convenience—I’m always available.”

 

"Untitled, Rome, Italy (1.132), 1977-1978". Image from butdoesitfloat.com
“Untitled, Rome, Italy (1.132), 1977-1978”. Image from butdoesitfloat.com

 

7. There’s debate over whether or not her work is really feminist

Drawing on Surrealist and Gothic literature, Woodman’s work is also seen as feminist. Critic Rosalind Krauss identified feminist elements in her work, like the way she shields herself from the male gaze and presents her naked body as a sort of animal carcass. Cindy Sherman, however, disagrees, believing “She used herself organically, not to make a statement.”

"Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island 1975-76". Image from loeildelaphotographie.com
“Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island 1975-76”. Image from loeildelaphotographie.com

8. Her work is influenced by fashion photography

Surprisingly, Woodman was inspired by the fashion photographers of her day, envying the commercial success of Deborah Turbeville. She also took influence from the innovative work of Duane Michals, whose depiction of movement and transparency she emulated.

"From Eel Series, 1978". Image from klatmagazine.com
“From Eel Series, 1978”. Image from klatmagazine.com

9. Some see Woodman’s work as foreshadowing her death

The photographer’s tragic suicide casts a shadow on her imagery, with speculation that her blurred and distorted self-portraits anticipate her eventual disappearance.

"Space2, Providence, Rhode Island 1976". Image from newyorkarttours.com
“Space2, Providence, Rhode Island 1976”. Image from newyorkarttours.com

10. The photographer didn’t always view bigger as better

Producing prints no larger than 20 x 25 cm, Woodman’s images are enhanced in their delicacy – their size producing an intimate experience between viewer and photograph.

 

“Francesca Woodman. On Being an Angel” is at Moderna Museet Malmo until 19 March 2017

 

Rodney Smith
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