Assignment 5 – Only Angels or Demons; reworked

This commentary has been altered to reflect the formative feedback of my tutor. The significant changes have been the inclusion of references to performance photography and collaborative feminist photographers, and the addition of two new images to the series, bringing the total up to seven. We also decided that they would be easier to present as a series of cards in a box, rather than collected together in book form.

Reflective Commentary

This piece of work was conceived and begun as a furious response [1] earlier this year to the way that women are treated differently in public life to their male counterparts. Since I wrote the original post in late September, the #metoo campaign [2] has taken off and women’s voices are being heard loud and clear for the first time, revealing the ways our lives are routinely subjected to harassment and sexual abuse, artificially created limits by men, and to different and much more exacting standards of behaviour in both public and private life. (See Mary Beard’s (2017) essay Women and Power: a Manifesto [3] for a full discussion on how this has been built into our culture from ancient times). We seem to be at a potential tipping point at present, with enough women being willing to stand up and share the ways in which so many of us are ridiculed and objectified both in the work and the home environment, that men hopefully will begin to understand a little of the limitations to which we are subject, but of which they have often been entirely oblivious.

The images for the piece were made during an all-female photo shoot, where we had gathered to explore our creativity through the use of props and lighting in a studio environment. The collaborative, non-judgemental nature of the event enabled us (the photographers, the studio owner and the model) to simply play and to explore our creativity together through performance without any input  or direction from men. The group follows in the footsteps of feminist collaborative work such as that of Jo Spence and Rosy Martin’s Phototherapy [4], as well as the performative work of, for example, Marina Abromovic and June Calypso [5], who used costumes, props and very considered poses to make their point.

Thereafter, I used some of the images to make a series of objects that are rooted in feminist avantgarde photography, but which refer to totally current feminist considerations.  The use of the female body as a means of making a political statement has been a feature of Third Wave Feminism, but I have concerns about the concept of reclaiming the body through the deliberate use of overt nudity – we have been there and done that – and I feel that there are other ways that a statement of feminist intent can be made without using that historic symbol of objectification.

The materiality and uniqueness of the handmade objects symbolises aspects of how women’s identity and function is represented in social culture, through themes such as performance, two-dimensionality and entrapment. At the same time, the handmade book makes reference to the tradition of women’s craft work, and the recent surge in enthusiasm for paper arts such as scrap-booking and card making. In both this assignment and Assignment 4, I use the form of the book and its connotations of credibility, gravitas and permanence as a means of expanding the semiotic aspects of my work beyond the images themselves into how they are displayed.

Separate posts here [6] and here [7] discuss the background and photographers that informed this work, but I must make specific mention of the Feminist Avantgarde in the 1970s exhibition political pieces [8] and Albarrán Cabrera’s use of gold leaf [9] to add depth, mystery and value to their images. which have directly influenced this work.


  1. Woodward, Holly (2017) ‘Exercise 4.5 – Fictional texts: Holly goes off-piste, again.’ [online blog] In: At: (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  2. France, Lisa Respers (2017) ‘#MeToo: Social media flooded with personal stories of assault.’ In: CNN Entertainment [online] At: (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  3. Beard, Mary (2017) Women and power: a manifesto. London: Profile Books.
  4. Spence, Jo (1980s) ‘Phototherapy’. [online] At: (Accessed on 26.01.18)
  5. Woodward, Holly (2017) ‘Assignment 5 – Performance Photography’. [online blog] In: At: (Accessed on 26.01.18)
  6. Woodward, Holly (2017) ‘Assignment 5 – Background Research’. [online blog] In: At: (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  7. Woodward, Holly (2017) ‘Assignment 5 – Photographic Influences’. [online blog] In: At: (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  8. Güner, Fisen. (2016) ‘Feminist art of the 1970s: knives, nudity and terrified men.’ [online] In: At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  9. Lensculture (2017) ‘Albarrán Cabrera.’ [online] At: (Accessed on 07.01.18)

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