The key words in this text, which are recurrent and fundamental in looking at the photographs below, can be found in physicality, sexual orientation, patriarchy and nudity. What these terms, or rather, these macro-arguments, have in common is penumbra and, in some cases, the total absence of light. With these shots and with this reflection, the intention is to lead them out of the darkness to which they are often condemned. To enlighten them therefore, with the hope that they can become shared themes and absorbed into the social fabric. What is true and readily apparent is the difficulty of addressing certain issues, especially in relation to the female sphere. A woman’s body and how she feels about it, as well as her sexual orientation, her position in society or her naked body itself, still seem to be disreputable topics or even, particularly in some societies, forbidden and condemnable. Although a segment of the world’s population is moving towards awareness, acceptance and inclusion, these issues are never fully explored and treated with the proper attention. Through photography – and more generally through art – many women have expressed themselves in this regard. Here it is the photographers Giulia Frump, Leah DeVun, Rachel Feinstein and Despina Mikonati who talk to us about all this, with their feminine and intimate gaze.
Four female photographers who are distant from each other in terms of style and content. Distant geographically and anagraphically, but who find a meeting point in their desire to scream their desire for freedom to the world. Looking at their shots, the four macro themes mentioned above emerge, united by a sense of liberation and the desire to represent what has been hidden for centuries. In Giulia Frump, the stereotype of the female body, the ideal of perfection of our century, is overcome by a dance of curves, soft lines that “lie in an embrace of pacification”, as the photographer herself says. The same reunion with the essence of the self finds a particular golden form in the shots of Despina Mikoniati, who in her project Epilithic amalgamates the female body with Mother Nature. “Mother Nature is the one who gives us birth and takes us away. She is the home of our bodies. A safe place to exist as we are,” says Despina.
While Frump and Mikoniati investigate the corporeal aspect in relation to the environment and the self, the two photographers Rachel Feinstein and Leah DeVun place women in close contact with the social sphere they inhabit today. Feinstein tackles the subject universally, reflecting on patriarchy and the space women occupy in today’s society. Even more, the photographer reflects on the way women are seen and represented by the male gaze, making particular reference to the cinematography of the 1940s and 1950s, in which the condition of the housewife was particularly evident. In this sense, Rachel plays on these elements, inserting in her shots objects linked to the female sphere – such as an iron, heels, a roast turkey on a laid table – and exalting the condition of domestic confinement. Her intention is to create unease in the eye of the beholder, aiming “to bring attention to the small moments that make up the larger female experience and to encourage conversations that inspire change.”
Leah DeVun, on the other hand, chooses to represent a specific group of women who have chosen to escape from this type of society. These are the groups of lesbian women who, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, but also today, have decided to form utopian and revolutionary communities in order to advance the liberation of the female gender. DeVun’s research is aimed at rediscovering these silent and hidden communities, which constitute places of great creativity and culture. “Visibility is crucial for any community, but lesbians have suffered much historical erasure and lack of representation,” says Leah DeVun, adding, “we don’t see enough pictures of lesbians or know enough about lesbian history. In the communes, women photographers tried to counteract this invisibility by creating their own images of lesbian life, and I’m trying to do that too with my work.”
Following the fil rouge that unites the four protagonists of this text, one discovers as many artists who today choose to tackle discourses that are considered difficult and complex, with the intention of deflecting them to the bone. To sew them, therefore, within the fabric of normality, to no longer consider them other themes, but part of the ordinary social flow.
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