Francesca Stern Woodman (April 3, 1958 – January 19, 1981) was an American artist, known for her black and white photography focusing on self-portraiture and the human figure in relation to it’s surroundings. A prolific artist in her short life, Woodman produced an impressive 10,000 negatives and 800 photographs (only 120 of that have ever been published or exhibited). Troubled by failed personal relationships and challenged with the anxieties of getting her work recognized, Woodman’s life tragically ended at the age of 22, when she committed suicide by jumping out of the loft window of her parent’s residence in New York City.
Incredibly, the main body of Woodman’s work was made during her teenage years. A relative unknown in life, she has since gained significant attention for her deeply intimate and introspective works. Woodman’s small scale photographs (most are 8 x 10 inches) are an exploration on concepts of self, gender, sexuality, body image and identity. Often turning the camera inward, Woodman primarily used herself as the model, creating surreal imagery that captured a state of fragile vulnerability.
Objects and figures are rarely fully revealed, rather the artist preferred to obscure and blur them with furniture, wallpaper, plants, hair. Birds, mirrors and skulls are amongst a few of the many recurring symbols scattered throughout her work. Using long exposure times and slow shutter speeds, Woodman was able to capture movement and merge surroundings and figures.
While staged, Woodmans thoughtfully composed photographs retained an impromptu feel as if the viewer happened to stumble across these spontaneous moments at just the right time.
About her work, the artist had stated,
“I was inventing a language for people to see the everyday things that I also see…and show them something different…simply the other side.”
Woodman’s photographs indeed encompass an alternate version of our own familiar world, where an eerie version of the familiar awaits us.