Photography: a feminist view - pt. 2
Let's continue our journey through the meaning of photography for women.
As we saw in the first part of the article, photography was the art of choice for the language of women, because it is free from all the rules and from the strong male presence that instead characterized sculpture and painting.
Photography, a new medium compared to painting and sculpture, has been a field in which women have exhibited extraordinary prowess in the 20th century, one in which the patriarchal standards applicable to most areas of work and the men power didn’t seem to matter so much.
Photography itself was not considered a credibile art form until fairly recently, and because of that women could see themselves in it, using it as a way to re-examined gender roles.
These exemplary women, experienced and opposed multiple forms of social and political oppression beyond gender, offering critical, political and imagined perspectives on various radical and marginalized communities. Exposing the atrocities of war, documenting revolutions as they unfolded, and even bringing to light the epidemic of domestic abuse or drug-addiction within people’s private homes, on countless occasions these women have exhibited the courage and empathy to rival their male counterparts.
The combination of women artists and photographs has already begun from the birth of the medium, with personalities like that of Julia Margaret Cameron: one of the few names that escaped the oblivion of official history, is fascinated by this new scientific device halfway between dream and reality. Julia approaches photography almost by chance, but she soon ended up building an atelier where she can produce her works that have clear references to nineteenth-century pictorialism, with fantastic and fabulous atmospheres, and which result in real dream representations. It is precisely the female body that suggests and inspires Cameron for these tableau vivants. Photography, like women, was hardly establishing itself since the end of the nineteenth century, struggling hard to get out of the margins of the artistic empyrean to which it had been relegated, thus immediately becoming the emancipatory territory of many women.
As I also saw in an exhibition I visited in Budapest, Julia's photographs, like those of many other women of her time, are enveloped in dreamlike atmospheres, and it almost seems to be overwhelmed by this dream of freedom of expression. and rebellion.
They are photos like these that teach how women have been able to rebel while maintaining, at least in some cases, their elegance and their "femininity", which was so dear to men.
If until the early twentieth century women entered the art academies only as models, through photographs they try to break that voyeuristic link with the male gaze, claiming the body as their own performative tool. Women look for their new face in self-figuring strategies, through photography but also writing, through the diary, the autobiography or with experimental novels. of affirming one's presence in the world, with the need to tell one's own singular story. As can also be seen in Cindy Sherman's Film Stills, the artists are fed by a good dose of narcissism and the need for self-affirmation, a side that emerges in particular in the works of Claude Cahun.
RANDY R., “Moving into the mainstream” da “Making the mark: women artists move into the mainstream”. Abbeville Press, New York, 1989
MUZZARELLI F., “Body and action”, Atlante, Bologna, 2007