Assignment 5 – tutor’s feedback

Chris and I did a video tutorial  and short format written feedback for this assignment. The written feedback is here: 5.Holly Woodward. I will consider both this and my own notes.

The overall feedback on the assignment was that it was good, and that any changes are small and should easily be accommodated to allow for submission by 30th January. He enjoyed the very topical nature of the work and my passion about the subject of women’s changing place within photography. Having said that, he felt that I should give more emphasis in my text to the ideas of performance and collaboration. Also, I should make mention of my technical and conceptual development working in the studio, book making etc. I plan to do the latter in my overall  review of the course, as it has applied to previous parts of my coursework an assignments as well. Finally, he suggestes that I include a couple more references to performative work as background, and makes some suggestions. Having had a quick look at the suggestions, I plan to write something about Marina Abromovic and June Calypso, both of whose work I have seen before, but had not considered it in this particular context.

Chris also made mention of how the work might be exhibited, and that the individual images have a uniqueness which might be diminished by binding them together. As they are, they could be mounted on a wall for exhibition and it would be a shame to remove that option. He suggests that I make reference in my blog to some of the other images I considered for the series.

Finally he gave the advice below on putting everything together for assessment, which I will follow.

We discussed how to present the work to the assessment team. All written work and research should be on your learning log/blog. Physical assignments are to be sent to the assessment team. Use a portfolio box and keep everything structured and professionally organised. You can send an overview text of your experiences of the unit; keep it positive expressing what and how you have developed as an artist. Each assignment can include an introduction text. Keep it simple, coherent and informative. You can also include a menu type text to highlight where the assessment team can find your blog and where to find the relevant information relating to each assignment.

Looking at my own notes, the following points were addressed:

  • we discussed the title on the box, and he said he was comfortable with it and it did not need changing
  • I asked what he thought about the subtitle of the piece and was it too childish, and he thought the subtitle was probably not necessary at all.
  • I questioned whether I should include more images, as it might affect the narrative. However, after we had decided to do away with the book-binding, the order of the images becomes less relevant and allows for more images. I plan to add a further two. We also discussed the idea of a page within the box explaining the reasoning for the order, but I am not sure if this is necessary now that the series has been reimagined as a set of individual objects
  • he felt that the contextualisation was good but that I should emphasise the topicality of the subject in my accompanying reflective piece, and also the performance aspect, which is becoming more prevalent in contemporary photography
  •  I asked if I should send my sketchbooks with the assessment package, and he felt not. He said it was important not to overwhelm the assessors and to point them directly at the bits of my work that matter. They can only look at so much in half and hour, and any personal contextualisation can be included as scanned pages in my blog.

So, there we are. Job nearly done. I can address these points in the next few days and then send it all off to the OCA for assessment.


Some different ways of using an Archive – Photo Oxford, part 2

Val Williams On The Practice of Reconceptualising Photographic Archives

The afternoon was set out as a series of presentations on different ways in which the Archive has been utilised by curators/photographer, etc. First up was Val Williams, a writer, curator and academic. She showed a series which she had found on the internet, called the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow, which is wildly eccentric and very funny. It is a band, who write songs to accompany offbeat holiday slides from the 1970s which they project onto a wall while they are playing. Her point was that these songs and images embodied the idea of loss through the archive, while manipulating and making stories about what we see, with no direct link to the intentions of the original photographers. She also talked about the role of the archivist – to protect and collect – and how as time goes on the archive tends to take on some of the identity of the collector. With reference to how it can be used, she argued that one needed to use common sense and morality when making decisions about how the Archive is used, and in particular what is an acceptable appropriation and reinterpretation.

She finished by asking the audience to think about their own family archives, and what elements of family history they wanted to keep for posterity. Leaving stuff behind (after death) is a dangerous concept, as anyone could use the images for their own purposes. She also asked us to consider whether it matters if an archive is real or invented.

References she mentioned included:

In Conversation: Taco Hidde Bakker discusses Taking Off. Henry, My Neighbor with artist Mariken Wessels

This project was a collaboration between Wessels, the photographer and Bakkeras, the background researcher and marketer. Wessels explained that she had previously been an actress and used this ability to create a person onstage in her obsession with Henry; she used what was available but also made bits up herself if what she wanted was not there. The main part of the archive came as a pack of images and stories from a friend, who was next door neighbour to Henry and his wife Martha in the 1980s. the 5000+ images were taken by Henry of Martha in various states of undress, and the sheer number of them, his accompanying notes about her poses and the relatively short period of time they covered indicate that Henry was completely obsessed with his project. Wessels was interested in both this obsession, but also Martha’s ordinariness, and the record of what started as a bit of fun, but over time became a drag and then a loathed requirement of Martha’s marriage. Wessels makes up a story about Martha finally throwing all the photographs out of the window and running away, thus taking back control. There are many layers to consider in this work, including Henry as the neighbour you see but do know, the use of private material without explicit permission for a public exhibition (nobody knows where either Henry or Martha a re now to ask them) the suffocating nature of the installation experience, in which the images are crowded together on all the walls, and the difficulty in assessing what is real about the archive and what was fabricated. In fact, I have a niggling doubt about whether any of it was original, and whether the whole project was made up by Wessels.

In Conversation: Curators Tim Clark and Greg Hobson discuss the Russian Criminal Tattoo Archive with its owners, FUEL (Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell)

This was a fascinating talk. Murray & Sorrell had first heard about the tattoos via drawings made by a prison guard in St. Petersburg prison. Then they came across another archive by a policeman and newspaper photographer Sergey Vasilev, who had encouraged prisoners to sit for him in exchange for a print, in the late 1980s. Quite apart from the aesthetics of the images, the tattoos themselves are a language, which Vasilev uncovered while trying to understand what motivated the prisoners to do them. He discovered that they were symbolic at a number of different levels. Some tattoos were mementos of stays in various prisons and some were gang related, but he also discovered that the more complex the tattoo, the higher the status of the inmate within the prison hierarchy, and its location on the body meant different things depending on where it was. They were applied (all illegally) as decoration, but also as punishment (a form of bodily abuse). Common themes included churches (the number of domes indicated the prisoner’s incarcerations), the Madonna and child and SS symbols, but the meanings were not the same was we think of them.  At the end of the communist movement, the concept faded out and so this archive is a piece of Russian alternative history as well as a series of typological portraits. The speakers also pointed ou that the tattoos and their language eclipsed both nudity (prisoners were happy to display their tattoos in private parts of their body) and also their individuality (the tattoos said more about who they were than how they fitted into the prison hierarchy than they did themselves.

AS a result of all this, I decided to find a proper definition of the archive and came across this explanation What Is An Archives? from the Society of American Archivists, which seems to provide a good explanation, but also asks us to consider how we might want to look at our own family archives as potentially interesting primary sources. Something to pursue in Digital Image and &Culture.

All sorts of stuff relating to the archive

After attending the OCA Photography Hangout last night, which was discussing Allan Sekula’s essay, ‘Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital‘, I looked back at the notes I’d taken at Photo Oxford in September, and realised there was considerable cross-over. So this is a post about both Sekula’s work and the Photo Oxford seminar.

Sekula’s Reading an Archive

Sekula’s essay Reading the Archive can be found as Chapter 42 of Wells (2003) The Photography Reader. It is a densely argued piece, which considers the political aspects of photography in some detail. He argues that all photographs potentially have a political angle which is frequently not acknowledged or even denied either at the time of making, or by later viewers. For example, Leslie Sheddon’s archive of commercial photographs from Cape Breton in the mid 20th century shows different strata of the local society when viewed now, although it might not have been directly considered at the time.

Sekula also considers the Archive, that ‘collection of primary materials waiting for someone to make connections between different elements within it’ (my definition). It cannot ever be complete, because it is amorphous, and constantly open both to new materials, but also to new interpretations of the material. It can never be fully understood.

Archives  constitute a ‘territory of images‘, i.e. those sources which belong to the person or institution who owns them, and who may buy and sell parts of it. However, ownership has little to do with the meaning of the work, which is produced by the researcher who picks and chooses the elements s/he wasn’t to compare, with the aim of telling a particular story (authorship). It is important to note though that the story is entirely dependent on the interpretation imposed by the researcher, and that there are a multiplicity of potential stories, with many different possible meanings, which can be gleaned from the archive. (abstract visual equivalence) This means that the politics and experience of the researcher will inevitably affect the outcome of that research, but also the politics and experience of the final viewer. There is no objectivity here; everything is subjective.

Sekula goes on to discuss how history is often dependent on pictures made at the time (whether they be paintings or photographs), and that these are frequently imbued with an aura of ‘truthfulness’ which when unpacked proves to be illusory. For example, an image of an Edwardian country lady with her family and servants has several potential histories depending on whose point of view you are considering it. What is civilisation to one person is barbarism to the next, always.

Moving on to the discussion we had at the Hangout, the following points came up:

  • once an image is accepted into the Archive, it loses its original meaning
  • we considered how one might research the archive and where to start – chronological, thematic etc.
  • once it has become disconnected from its original home, an image becomes untethered, waiting for a meaning to be imposed upon it.
  • so many old family photos become meaningless when the people within them die, as nobody then knows the stories and whom they describe
  • the Archive is not ‘truth’
  • in theory, photography could be a ‘universal language’ but its context is always affected by cultural assumptions
  • use of photographs as spectacle – an interpretation of history. History is as interpretive as art or photography
  • Moving on to how one uses images after they have been released into the internet, perfectly innocent images can have meanings attached to them that were never originally intended, e.g. the H&M advert. There is  no control by the original maker
  • potential of typologies to be used for nefarious purposes, such as eugenics.

The more I learn about The Archive, the more interesting it becomes. It can be used and interpreted in so many different ways, with the connection to the original maker being very close or wildly different. My next post will look at some of the exhibits at Photo Oxford with this in mind.


Sekula, Allan (2003) ‘Reading an archive; Photography Between Labour and Capital’ In Wells, Liz (ed.) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge. Also available at : (Accessed on 12.01.2018)

Assignment 5 – Only Angels or Demons: or Do You Need a Willy To Be Taken Seriously?

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 than 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, harassed, and sexually abused 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 oblivious.

The images for the piece were made during an all-female photo shoot, where we had gathered to explore our creativity as a group 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.

Thereafter, I used some of the images to make an object that is rooted in feminist avantgarde photography, and which uses the materiality of the handmade book to symbolise aspects of how women’s identity and function is represented in social culture, through themes such as performance, two-dimensionality and entrapment. 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.

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 [4] and here [5] discuss the background and photographers that informed this work, but I must make specific mention here of the Feminist Avantgarde in the 1970s exhibition political pieces [6] and Albarrán Cabrera’s use of gold leaf [7] to add depth, mystery and value to their images which I have drawn upon here.


  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. Woodward, Holly (2017) Assignment 5 – Background Research [online blog] In: At: (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  5. Woodward, Holly (2017) Assignment 5 – Photographic Influences [online blog] In: At: (Accessed on 07.01.18)
  6. Güner, Fisen. (2016) ‘Feminist art of the 1970s: knives, nudity and terrified men.’ [online] In: At: (Accessed on 09.01.18
  7. Lensculture (2017) ‘Albarrán Cabrera.’ [online] At:  (Accessed on 07.01.18)

Assignment 5

The box , covers and page spread for the book are shown here, while the original has been sent to OCA for the assessment process.

Individual images

Box and Page spreads


Side A


Side B



Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Overall, I am happy with the technical skill level of the images. They are what they are, and silhouettes offer a less demanding technical requirement that other photographic processes. The visual skills for the assignment cover two different areas, a) the posing and positioning of the model within the frame to tell the story, and b) the use of skills outside the direct photographic arena to present them effectively. My use of a window format using Sewn & Tied bookbinding was my own idea, as it is one I may use again in future projects.

Quality of Outcome

Unlike the other assignments in this course unit, this was a piece of work that wanted to be made. I did not have to struggle for months over a theme and images; they simply put themselves together in two afternoons of creative immersion. Subsequent to the original idea, my main decisions related to how I was going to present and contextualise the images. I am pleased overall with the final product, although ideally I would have liked to make the series longer. My issue with doing so was that it might diminish the message held within the current sequence of images. My bookmaking skills improve with each object I make, but it will be a long time before I achieve perfection of a final product. Having said that though, there is a certain pleasure in producing and holding a clearly handmade object, imperfect but still attractive.

Demonstration of Creativity

This is possibly the most creative piece of work I have undertaken so far in my degree journey, but also the one that is least aligned with traditional photography. It has opened up a new avenue of exploration for future units, using the physical aspects of photographs and their presentation, particularly through handmade books, to expand the ideas I wish to examine. I would like to explore the use of ideas from book-making and scrapbooking to make one-off objects which contain and present my images in ways which extend their stories. A new love of studio work has also been uncovered, much to my surprise; I was not expecting to enjoy it so much. A consideration of the five assignments in this module together has shown me that I enjoy making work which provides a social commentary to issues which are of current interest, but in a non-standard format, and I intend to continue exploring this in the future.


For this assignment, the work came first and only afterwards did I consider contextualisation. I believe that the sheer number of possible ways in which work by other photographers could be said to have influenced the piece, and my difficulty in picking a few specific photographers to reference, means that the assignment was a subconscious distillation of many different ideas relating to the current social media interest in women’s experiences of life’s limitations in comparison with men and the potential of the Female Gaze. Not only has it drawn on other photographers’ work, but it also uses ideas, processes and concepts that I have explored myself in previous coursework and assignments, and it really feels as if the project gathered my learning and experiments together in this final piece of work.

Assignment 5 – photographic influences


This assignment is rooted in the tradition of Feminist Photography, which first appeared in the 1960s. Women photographers had their place before this, and in the very early days , ‘those with ability found professional photography a refreshingly level playing field.‘ (Ang, 2014, p114) [1] but it was limited to the wealthy, as only they could afford the necessary equipment. People such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Zaida Ben Yusef, Anna Atkins and Gertrude Käsebier were among those who made a name for themselves before and around the beginning of the 20th century. On the whole, their images tended to be more artistic than documentary in nature.

In the period from the beginning of the 20th century to the Second World War, women photographers gradually expanded their acceptable remit to include social documentary,  domestic and vernacular photography and fashion, as well as an under-reported representation as war photographers [2]. However, it was only with the huge upsurge of the so-called  Second Wave of Feminism of the 1960s [3] that the place of women in society and more specifically as photographers was addressed. This was the period of history that spawned the feminist photographer – one who used photography to make specific and overt political points about women’s place in the world.

The 1970s was a hugely creative period for both feminist artists and photographers, and the exhibition Feminist Avantgarde of the 1970s, [4][25] which was shown at The Photographers Gallery in London in 2016 revealed the range and ability of work that was undertaken at that time. Of particular interest to my assignment was that produced by Barbara Kruger [5], with its use of words overlaying images in a Dada advertising style, Francesca Woodman‘s use of the body in performance to make specific points about her place in the world, [6] and Carolee Schneemann’s reclamation of the female nude as a feminist symbol through tableaux. [7] Some of the work was aggressive in style, with overt use of female nudity to make people feel embarrassed and ashamed, such as VALIE EXPORT’s Genital Panic [8], which actively courted hostility in its audience. Others used self-mutilation to make their point, such as Karin Mack [9] and a third group questioned their place in society through the different roles that they were required to take, e.g. mother, lover, working woman, etc. (Martha Wilson [10] Marcella Campagnano [9].

From the 1990s a new wave of feminism began to appear – The Third – which has focused on ‘the micropolitics of gender equality‘ [3] and which continues to this day. This has been attempting to find an acceptable path between the aggressive politics of 1970s and 1980s feminism, with its hint of butch women in dungarees which is actively rejected by many younger women, and the selfie generation – obsessed with how they look, and who often see current feminism as permission to choose whether to seek equality and independence or the role of the traditional Stay At Home Mother/Wife/Girlfriend. Alongside this, views about gender and cultural politics are changing at an ever-increasing pace, with non-binary, non-gendered and LGBTQ groups each claiming a Gaze of their own and intersectionality, gender mainstreaming, and the reframing of woman as ‘subject, not object’, all being added to the mix. This is outlined in the concluding chapter of Angela McRobbie’s The Aftermath of Feminism (2009) [11] and leads to concerns about whether diluting the message too much risks losing it altogether.

It is not until one is shown a clear alternative that some of the baggage that mainstream arts is carrying becomes obvious. Throughout this course unit, I have been considering different aspects of how much of our world is wholly perceived through the lens of the Male Gaze, a term coined by film critic Laura Mulvey in her 1975 essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ [12] and which is defined as

The perspective of a notionally typical heterosexual man considered as embodied in the audience or intended audience for films and other visual media, characterized by a tendency to objectify or sexualize women.
‘it’s because of the male gaze that female characters are regularly eroticized’  Oxford Dictionary (n.d.) [13]

With the concept of the Male Gaze having been accepted, it was only a matter of time before feminists asked whether a Female Gaze might also exist [14], and more lately a Non-gendered Gaze, and we began to wonder what art using the female gaze might look like. Jill Soloway brilliantly outlined it in her lecture On the Female Gaze (TIFF Uncut, 2016) [15]. Two books which consider this are Annie Liebowitz’s Women [16],  which is a series of portraits of some of the important women in world affairs around the millennium, (although I was not convinced at her lecture recently that she specifically started with a feminist viewpoint, and she indicated that it may have been added by Sontag) and Charlotte Janse’s Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze [17], which considers work by 40 female photographers from all over the world in a refreshing reversal of the usual male-oriented photographic anthology. The latter book in particular is fascinating in the way it subtlely offers an alternative viewpoint on matters as varied as Nakeya Brown’s Hair Stories Untold [18] and Pinar Yolaçan’s Maria (2007) [19] a series on Afro-Brazilian matriarchs, whom she dresses in handmade costumes of meat and offal. It soon becomes abundantly clear that half the world’s population has views that are quite different from the historic patriarchal one, and that those views are interesting and as worthy of exploration as the more traditional male ones.


Bringing this from the general to the particular, my assignment uses the concept of the female gaze to question where women are really positioned in today’s society. It draws on the performative aspects of work by photographers including, Carol Schneemann, Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman and Jo Spence’s Phototherapy series [20], whose work specialises in using the female body as a prop/clothes horse to make political and social points. Schneemann and Woodman were often unclothed in their work and used the environment of the studio to make their point, while for Sherman and Spence the clothing is an important part of the performance, connoting different domestic and societal roles.

I have written previously [21] about the work of the Albarran Cabrera duo, who use gold leaf as a part of their image making, and my own early experiments using similar techniques. On the whole, one cannot actually see the gold leaf in their work, as it is usually only the back of the works, but I rather like being able to see the leaf around the edges of the image – it firmly acknowledges its presence and provides the opportunity for symbolic value.

Process of work towards the final assignment

As has been stated previously, the starting point for the assignment was a series of silhouette images that I made from a photoshoot. My early experiments with them included printing them on thin washi paper and backing them with gold leaf, so that there was a hint of it showing through the paper.


I also tried using words around the images, which I liked but which did not provide sufficient depth of meaning for an assignment. However, it did produce the variable of using the images in reverse silhouette, offering the opportunity of viewing them as two different sides to the story.

two side of woman

At this point, I became interested in how the series could be presented so that the gold leaf would be visible but also contained, as it is very fragile. Further experiments using some of the book making skills which I had begun to learn at the SW OCA’s workshop day [22] gave me the idea of remodelling a Sewn and Tied Binding [23] to include a window within each page, and sandwiching the images back to back. When sewn together the final result becomes a book that one can view from either end, but with each end beginning a different story.

The final part of the production process was to make a box in which to present the fragile book, initially to protect it, but also to add an element of mystery and value to the object inside. I made the box from instructions found in Marie Clayton’s (2017) Ultimate Papercraft Bible, p141 – Made to measure box [24].

The overall aim was to produce a physical piece of work that had a story to tell, but in which the materiality of the piece added layers to that story. I have avoided giving too many suggestions in the Assignment itself about what viewers might like to read into the object, but will outline a few here:-

  • the box as container (Pandora’s Box) and as mystery (The Box of Delights)
  • the physical book giving gravitas and value to the images as well as being a showcase for them
  • the images being seen through windows (voyeuristic, trapped, exhibits-objects)
  • the gold leaf extending raggedly from underneath the images, with occasional spots on the surface (imperfection, partially hidden value/worth of women to society)
  • the silhouetted figure (everywoman) who is clothed and shoed (not vulnerable, strong)
  • the double-ended nature of the book – whichever end one begins, the story becomes the same, and it is binary in nature. One can either start from a good, white demon or angel, but the internal story moves to the reverse, but identical conclusion, a bad, black demon or angel.
  • the powerful strength of the poses – there is nothing submissive about them at all.
  • the concept of woman as being a stereotype, either good or bad, and its transformation between the two ends (angel and demon) to indicate that there is a middle ground.

However, despite all these meaningful connotations, the overarching feelings that it provokes for me is one of exuberant play and the joy of collaborating with other women.

Finally, I would like to thank Kate Aston for all her help during the process of making this assignment and for pointing me towards her post [25] on the Feminist Avantgarde exhibition. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this myself and her review was very helpful.. She has been a great source of support and ideas throughout.


  1. Ang, Tom (2014) Photography: The Definitive Visual History. London: Dorling Kindersley.
  2. Taylor-Lind, Anastasia (2017) ‘Women Photographers Are Being Written Out of the War Narrative.’ In: [online]. At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  3. Dorey-Stein, Caroline (2015) ‘ A Brief History: The Three Waves of Feminism.’ At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  4. Güner, Fisun (2016) ‘Feminist art of the 1970s: knives, nudity and terrified men’ [online] In: At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  5. Woodward, Holly (2017) ‘Barbara Kruger, Sarah Sense and abstract layers of meaning.’ [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA I&P Blog. At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  6. Tate (n.d.) ‘Francesca Woodman 1958–1981’ [online] At: on 09.01.18)
  7. Rose, Steve (2014) ‘Carolee Schneemann: ‘I never thought I was shocking.” [online] In:  At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  8. Tate (2007) VALIE EXPORT Action Pants: Genital Panic 1969 [online] At: (Accessed: 09.01.18)
  9. Poyner, Rick (2016) ‘Feminist scrutiny.’ In: At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  10. MOMA (n.d.) Martha Wilson: A Portfolio of Models, 1974. [online] At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  11. McRobbie, Angela (2009) The Aftermath of Feminism: gender, culture and social change. London: Sage Publications.
  12. Mulvey, Laura (2009), “Visual pleasure and narrative cinema”. In: Mulvey, Laura, Visual and other pleasures (2nd ed.), Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 14–30.
  13. Oxford Dictionaries (n.d.) ‘Definition: Male Gaze.’ [online] At: (Accessed: 09.01.18)
  14. Loreck, Janice (2016) ‘Explainer: what does the ‘male gaze’ mean, and what about a female gaze?’ [online] In: At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  15. Soloway, Jill. (2016). On the Female Gaze. [Online Video]. 11 September 2016. Available from: (Accessed: 09.01.18)
  16. Liebowitz, Annie & Sontag, Susan (1999) Women. New York: Random House.
  17. Janse, Charlotte (2017) Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze. London: Laurence King Publishers.
  18.  Brown, Nakeya (n.d.) Hair Stories Untold. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 09.01.18)
  19. Saatchi Gallery (n.d.) Selected works by Pinar Yolaçan. [online] At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  20. Woodward, Holly (2015) Photographers – Jo Spence (1934-1992). [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA Blog C&N At:  (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  21. Woodward, Holly (2017) Some experiments in homage to Albarran Cabrera. [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA I&P Blog.  At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  22. Woodward, Holly (2017) Saturday 14th October. In: South West OCA October 14th newsletter. At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  23. Woodward, Holly (2017) Preparations for assignment 5. [online blog] In: Holly’s OCA I&P Blog.  At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  24.  Clayton, Maria (2017) Ultimate Papercraft Bible. London: Collins & Brown.
  25. Aston, Kate (2016) Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s – The Photographers’ Gallery 8.10.16 [online blog] In: Kate Aston: welcome to expressing your vision At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)

Assignment 5 – background research


In assignment 5, I have chosen to consider certain themes relating to the place of women in today’s social culture. Those themes are very much a part of the current zeitgeist, and it seems that social media has finally given half the population a way of voicing our opinions loudly and in a way that cannot be brushed off by the patriarchy as simply ‘women making a bit of a fuss.’ Women are finally beginning to Roar. (Perry, 2013) [1]

Examples of the female voice which have magically coalesced this year through the medium of social media, range from the wildly successful #metoo [2] campaign, which revealed just how many women have suffered sexual harrassment and abuse at work through an acknowledgement of the slut-shaming of female politicians to the outing of the shocking lack of female photographers who are given space in mainstream news outlets. Just for interest’s sake, here is the breakdown of ‘2017 photos of the year’ from various international publications as compiled by @womenphotograph [3] an initiative by female journalists who want to make the visual news less male-centric. They publish weekly statistics on the percentage of photos taken by women or non-binary photographers across major publications and it is a very sorry list, as can be seen below. The surprising success story in the group is the BBC, which has a highly creditable 48% of their best 2017 images taken by women. If they can manage this, why can’t other news organisations.

Fig. 1. @womenphotograph (2017)

Alongside this, I have been reading Mary Beard’s (2017) Women and Power; A Manifesto [4] and Angela Saini’s (2017) Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong [5] and together this has reawakened my feminist activism, which has lain semi- dormant for a considerable period. In Women and Power, Beard refers to the way women have been  disempowered quite explicitly for at least 2000 years, with for example, the Romans specifically excluding us from public speaking by teaching the necessary skills only to boys. This sidelining has continued ever since and even now women in public roles are subject to a level of personal invective and ridicule which men are simply not. Only last month, for example, Vanity Fair published an video suggesting that Hillary Clinton give up politics and take up knitting instead. (BBC, 2017) [6]

Meanwhile, here in the UK, female politicians are discussed more in terms of their clothes choices and appearance than their ideas. This image of Teresa May and Nicola Sturgeon illustrates this admirably. Two powerful political women reduced to a discussion about who has the better legs. When was the last time two male politicians were discussed in that way? Never.


Daily Mail C79V9QtXQAEEu1t-2

Fig. 2. Daily Mail (2017)


So, on the one side, we have society telling women to stay away from public life by making them feel uncomfortable and demeaned if they stick our heads above the parapet, while on the other side objectifying perfect images of women are in adverts everywhere, making us feel that we can never measure up to what is expected of us. The more one looks into it, the more furious and politically active I become.

However, there are an increasing number of chinks of light in the gloom, particularly and surprisingly in the media industry, always understood to be the home of the ‘casting couch’. Recent films such as ‘Wonder Woman‘ [7] and  ‘Star Wars: the Last Jedi‘ [8] have both been hugely successful at the box office and shown that there is an real appetite for stories that clearly feature the female gaze. Female movie starts are standing up and outing the sexual harrassment that has been endemic in the movie industry, often at considerable risk to their own careers. And photography collectives such as Women Photograph [3] The Old Girls’ Club[9], Fast Forward: women in photography [10] and  Women in Photography [11], to name but a few, are not only showcasing the work that patriarchal organisations are dismissing, but also funding bursaries for new non-binary and female photographers to enable them to create a name for themselves. Of course, charges of ‘whataboutism‘ [12] are levelled at groups which exclude men, but the obvious riposte is that when the proportion of media used photographs taken by men dips below (for the sake of argument 60%) it might be worth having that conversation. At present, with the average being somewhere in the 80s, any objective assessment would conclude that men are more than adequately represented already.

My assignment hinges of this potentially pivotal moment; one where the sidelining, diminishing and objectification of women and their bodies continues, but one too where women are beginning to stand up and fight for their rightful place in society in large numbers, after a lapse of several decades since the original Wave of the Feminist Movement. The next post will look at the photographic influences which informed the assignment.


  1. Perry, Katy (2013) Roar In: Prism. Los Angeles: Capitol Records.
  2. Khomami, Nadia (2017) ‘#MeToo: how a hashtag became a rallying cry against sexual harassment.’ [online] In: At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)@womenphotograph At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  3. Mary Beard’s (2017) Women and Power; A Manifesto. London: Profile books.
  4. Saini, Angela (2017) Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story. London: Fourth Estate.
  5. BBC News (2017) ‘Vanity Fair sorry for suggesting Hillary Clinton ‘knit’.’ [online] In: At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  6. Wonder Woman. (2017) Directed by Patty Jenkins. Los Angeles: Warner Bros.
  7. Star Wars: the Last Jedi (2017) Directed by Rian Johnson. Los Angeles:Lucasfilm, Ram Bergman Productions, Walt Disney Pictures.
  8. The Old Girls’ Club [online] At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  9. Fast Forward: women in photography [online] At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  10. Women in Photography [online] At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)
  11. Merriam-Webster (2017) What About ‘Whataboutism?’
    If everyone is guilty of something, is no one guilty of anything? At: on 09.01.18)


Figure 1. @womenphotograph (2017). [online]. Tweets posted 28 December 16.05 and 16.06 and

Figure 2. Daily Mail (2017) Never Mind Brexit. Who won Legs-it? [newspaper headline, online] At: (Accessed on 09.01.18)

A trip to Bristol


Yesterday, another OCA student Kate Aston and I went to Bristol to see the Grayson Perry exhibition, The Most Popular Exhibition Ever! I hadn’t really considered Bristol as a hub for art exhibition before, but will definitely be going back. It is much easier and cheaper to get to for me than London, and there is plenty of high quality work on show there, with the Arnolfini, Spike Island, M-Shed, The Lime Tree Gallery showing modern work, alongside the traditional museums, such as the Royal West of England, and of course, Martin Parr’s forthcoming event space.

The last time I went to the Arnolfini was for the Richard Long exhibition, which I reviewed here. Long and Perry have in common their penchant for large scale pieces and the huge rooms of the Arnolfini were an ideal location, giving the works plenty of space to breathe. The exhibition covered all three floors of the building, and it was very well attended, especially for a winter’s midweek morning – Perry is obviously a very popular artist, as per the exhibition title. Having said that, the title is really a play on words, as the exhibition looks at current popular culture of the last few years, and is very rooted in the 2010s, examining subjects like Brexit, the world of the internet and gender fluidity. I do wonder how some of the works will be seen when they become historical, rather than being contemporary. They will certainly say more about what was bothering people than many of the current, more ‘artsy’ stuff.

As we all know Grayson Perry spreads his creativity across a wide variety of media, but most of the work on display here was ceramic pots, tapestries. Most of the works were big, some were huge (see below). The ceramic pots were dotted about the building, with space to view them from all angles, which was essential as every side of the pots were covered in complex layers of colour, texture and a mind-boggling array of ideas. Minimalism is not a concept that appeals to Perry; his work tends more towards the maxim ‘If in doubt, bung it in’.  Perhaps partly for this reason, and also his overt transvestitism, the everyday subject matter and obvious political enthusiasm, he has had difficulty in being accepted by the arts establishment over the years, despite his obvious talent. Looking closely at some of his ceramics, it is hard not to be awed by his facility with colour and glazing techniques, and his riotous use of different ones within the same piece of work. I was particularly struck by the subtle gold transfers which were applied to many of the pots on top of the more obvious layers, for example.

Much has been written about Grayson Perry, and his ideas and methods, so I will not say any more about them. What really fascinated me about the exhibition was the exuberance of the work, his breadth of subject matter and materials, and his playfulness. I cam away feeling that a door had opened to me, away from the straight, unadorned photographic image. Perry lets us know that it is OK to experiment, and the more extreme and wacky, the better. This degree is a journey for me, and I should not feel constrained by current standards of what is considered the ‘right’ way of making images. If I want to embellish, alter or use multi-media alongside and within my images, that is fine. The journey is about exploration and playing with concepts, as much as producing standard images. Providing there is a clear(ish) methodology and contextualisation, anything goes.

It was a breath of fresh air!

PS, while Kate and I were thumbing through some of the books Perry has used as inspiration, we came across one called Lands End, by Ruth Claxton. Claxton’s work includes torn paper and embroidered photographs and is something I need to keep a note of for future work.