Zoe Cooper

on the female gaze and the self portrait

For my last post of the series (sadly), I have to include Cindy Sherman. Her work clearly needs no introduction, only reflection.

Untitled Film Still #53 1980, reprinted 1998 by Cindy Sherman born 1954


Until next time!


on the female gaze and spatial awareness

Moroccan-born photographer Lalla Essaydi’s carefully staged images of Arab women have caught the attention of curators and collectors around the world. Her subjects are often covered with henna art and traditionally calligraphy, two artistic practices often left to men. Covered in inscriptions and dressed to match the background, Essaydi’s women appear empowered, placed front and center, with bold stares and powerful stances, despite the fact they, quite literally, blend into the background.




On the female gaze as activism






South African photographer and LGBT activist Zanele Muholi’s photographs speak for themselves. A self-proclaimed visual activist, the image she creates put her cause front and center for all to see. Her portraits of South Africa’s lesbian community document the beauty – and the struggles – of a community too often pushed to the side. Muholi’s subjects are delicate and strong all at the same time. Many of her photographs were stolen when her Cape Town apartment was robbed in 2012 – I think that gives you an idea of how controversial her work is to some. Despite the setback, she continues to document the faces and stories of an underrepresented community.





On the female gaze and complex characters

Norwegian photographer Tonje Bøe Birkeland photographs female fictional characters traveling in remote natural landscapes. Her photographs can feel like stills from a film we haven’t seen yet; a young woman looks into a pair of binoculars, another stands in front of a makeshift tent, another walks through snowy mountains. Birkeland’s protagonists feel distant yet recognizable, their stories only partially told through photos, pieces of text, and objects. The line between truth and fiction becomes blurred, and we begin to fill in the gaps with our own imaginations.

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