Francesca Woodman

“It is difficult not to read Woodman’s may self-portraits – she produced over five hundred during her short lifetime – as alluding to a troubled state of mind. She committed suicide at the age of twenty-two.”

(Bright, 2010, p. 25)

Our course book directs us to look at Woodman’s images online and see what evidence we find for Susan Bright’s comment above.

Woodman’s photographic career started at the tender age of thirteen when her father gave her a camera. A lot of her work are self-portraits – she was always available to model for herself. Much of her work also feature nude women.

I’m not sure that I agree entirely with Bright’s statement above. I find Woodman’s work to be representative of a young teenager exploring her sexuality, trying to discover herself. As she gets older, the photos seem to have more questions layered into them. I see signs of rebelliousness and curiosity in her work, but I also see a sense of humour in some of her images (Yet another leaden sky). On the other hand, some of her images are a little disturbing. The precarious position of the door in Untitled 1975 – 80 with Woodman lying curled up naked beneath it seems to suggest an element of self-harming to me.  Similarly, I find her Eel Series very disturbing. Maybe it is because of my aversion to snakes – but the thought of lying naked next to such creatures, be they dead or alive, just creeps me out totally.

Notwithstanding her quirkiness, she was an extremely talented photographer and her images do reveal her journey of self-exploration into womanhood. She utilised various techniques like long exposure to create ghostly images and various Surrealism motifs in her photographs, usually putting herself in the frame, either fully, partially or hidden. One might say her body of works represent her short life’s journey.

Reference List

Bright, S. (2010) Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography.  Cited in Boothroyd, S. (2014)  Photography 1: Context and Narrative.  Open College of the Arts, p.74

Woodman, Francesca. Eel Series, Roma, May 1977 – August 1978 [online]. Tate. Available from: [Accessed 27 September, 2015]

Woodman, Francesca. Untitled 1975 – 80 [online]. Tate. Available from: [Accessed 27 September, 2015]

Woodman, Francesca. Yet another leaden sky. {online]. Francesca Woodman Gallery. Available from: [Accessed 27 September, 2015]


Cooke, R. (2014)  Searching for the real Francesca Woodman [online].  The Guardian.  Available from [Accessed 27 September, 2015]

Woodman, Francesca [online]. Wikipedia. Available from: [Accessed 27 September, 2015]


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