I have mentioned this project briefly here previously, and in relation to the support received from the members of the TV group I attended last month. It is one of two concrete ideas I am working on at the moment (there are a couple of others but they have taken a back seat for now). In many ways the project surrounding Girlhood is prompted by much that I have absorbed through UVC studies so far -how we are shaped by the pictures we see around us, how those pictures help to create a reality which is often dictated by commercial and consumerist forces, which in turn are motivated by more basic human phenomena such as sexuality, and all that entails – male/female dynamics, reproduction, attraction. At the moment when people ask me what this is work is about I can say it’s about 2 things that I know of, (although I won’t really know what I am exploring or discovering here until I can look back on it retrospectively.) It is ostensibly a look at the development of young girls as they go on their childhood journey towards womanhood, how society has an influence on that, how that influence manifests itself, how those manifestations become internalised, and then expressed in gesture. Of course, the project is also, as I have mentioned deeply autobiographical too.
A few weeks ago I remembered diaries that I kept from the ages of about 11/12 to 15. I thought it was interesting to see that I had cut images out of magazines and pasted them into my diaries, effectively borrowing from Dubord’s spectacle and making a women’s magazine of my own, populated with my own words, which looked back at me and told me who I should be. Words included, which of course, as Barthes’ tells us are the ‘ultimate readymades’ – so who was really the author of those words I used? My diaries are hilarious to begin with but become progressively more upsetting. I had been reading Danielle Steele a lot to begin with, a book called Remembrance, was the first one I along with the whole school became obsessed with. The romantic dramas in those stories informed my idea of romance. At that age, I absorbed ideas about love and relationships that came directly from that genre. I also absorbed the very well documented, but still problematic, view that women should ideally look a certain way. I cut our and pasted pictures of women looking skinny, supposedly sexually ‘attractive’ and pasted them in my dairies. (In fact I remember – maybe when I was 19 or so – seeing women who were older and didn’t conform to the youthful ideal we are sold, and thinking that is a much richer, more attractive state than the anorexics in the magazines we are meant aspire towards). As well as those I have letters from my father. Our relationship was skewed by several factors and some of the things he says to me in those letters do not make for comfortable reading.
I am wondering if or how to include the diaries in the project. I have had ideas about making a book now that looks like the diaries. I could also photograph some of the words. Or I could simply include some of the words alongside pictures. I think I will continue to be influenced by UVC course work and suspect the semiotic section next will have some important things for me. I am nearly done with the initial draft of A2 and hope to have it submitted on time so can begin to get on with the next section, and see how A3 helps to shape my project and the images I am taking for it.
I have in the meantime added to my collection of shots to consider and subtracted ones I no longer feel fit, although I am aware I will have to go back and relook at everything eventually. I recognise a changing style which may or may not be problematic. There is more energy in later images, even in the static ones. I continue to feel a little overwhelmed by the project but all I can do for now is keep shooting, adding images and thinking about it, and making the most of fellow student/photographers’ feedback. I might also try and shoot some pages from my dairies but I’m not sure about it yet – try it, I guess, and see.
And I wanted to add that I looked at a paper last year about the anthropology of love in different cultures and will need to dig that out and post it here shortly as that certainly informs some of this work. – added later;
Images (c)SJField 2016