Francesca Woodman - The “anti-portrait” prodigy
Thanks to the SFMOMA’s current exhibition & the recent release of Scott Willis’
documentary “The Woodmans
”, Francesca W.’s brief but incredible body of work has seen a revival.
Often recognized as the last true Modernist photographer, Woodman began taking photographs at the age of 13. Mostly known for picturing herself nude in empty architectural settings, her photographs actually reveal her hiding from the camera.
Woodman’s tragic suicide at the age of 22 has often shaped the way people have looked at her work. “There has been a tendency to dramatize and sensationalize Francesca’s work because of the tragic events of her life”, says her father.
To this day, many critics still disagree over the meaning of her work. Some argue that it is narcissistic and adolescent, whilst other believe that her simple (yet complex) images successfully manage to deconstruct the photographic process.
When asked by a friend why she obsessively photographed herself, Woodman replied: “It’s a matter of convenience, I am always available.”
One of Woodman’s biggest admirer is contemporary photographer Cindy Sherman, who claims to have been “mesmerised with her history”. She adds, “We were both in New York at the exact same time, living in the same neighbourhood, close in age and circumnavigating the same art world, both expressing ourselves through photographing ourselves. Yet we never met or knew of one another. […] She had few boundaries and made art out of nothing: empty rooms with peeling wallpaper and just her figure. No elaborate stage set-up or lights. Her process struck me more the way a painter works, making do with what’s right in front of her, rather than photographers like myself who need time to plan out what they’re going to do.”