This piece of work was conceived and begun as a furious response  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  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  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  and here  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  and Albarrán Cabrera’s use of gold leaf  to add depth, mystery and value to their images which I have drawn upon here.
- Woodward, Holly (2017) Exercise 4.5 – Fictional texts: Holly goes off-piste, again [online blog] In: hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-4-image-and-text/project-3-fictional-texts/ (Accessed on 07.01.18)
- France, Lisa Respers (2017) ‘#MeToo: Social media flooded with personal stories of assault.’ In CNN Entertainment [online] At: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/15/entertainment/me-too-twitter-alyssa-milano/index.html (Accessed on 07.01.18)
- Beard, Mary (2017) Women and power: a manifesto. London: Profile Books.
- Woodward, Holly (2017) Assignment 5 – Background Research [online blog] In: hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/assignment-5-background-research/ (Accessed on 07.01.18)
- Woodward, Holly (2017) Assignment 5 – Photographic Influences [online blog] In: hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com At: https://hollyocaidentityplace.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/assignment-5-photographic-influences/ (Accessed on 07.01.18)
- Güner, Fisen. (2016) ‘Feminist art of the 1970s: knives, nudity and terrified men.’ [online] In: theguardian.com. At: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2016/oct/03/feminist-art-of-the-1970s-knives-nudity-and-terrified-men (Accessed on 09.01.18
- Lensculture (2017) ‘Albarrán Cabrera.’ [online] At: https://www.lensculture.com/albarrancabrera (Accessed on 07.01.18)
The box , covers and page spread for the book are shown here, while the original has been sent to OCA for the assessment process.
Box and Page spreads
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.