Photography The Femininity of Pregnancy According to Lois Conner
Photographybook

The Femininity of Pregnancy According to Lois Conner

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Anna Frattini

Lois Conner explores one of the most profound and complicated moments of femininity, pregnancy, in a project that later became a book—To Be, published by L’Artiere. Her artistic vision remains the guiding thread of this project, inspired by the altar paintings of the Italian Renaissance. This was the starting point of the project, created using her 7″x17″ panoramic camera.

«When I realized that my subjects sometimes had difficulty maintaining their balance, I also took horizontal portraits, thinking of the reclining portraits such as Francisco de Goya’s Maja Desnuda, Edouard Manet‘s Olympia, and André Kertész‘s Satiric Dancer. I collected copies of paintings, drawings, and photographs for inspiration and often asked my subjects to interpret gestures or poses on their own. During the time we spent together, we worked collaboratively and slowly—moving and rearranging furniture and props—to create an intimate studio, both inside their homes and sometimes outdoors in the landscape. Sometimes, partners, dogs, or cats joined us,» the photographer explains.

The Venus of Willendorf—dating back to 25,000 BC and discovered in Austria in 1908—is the oldest known representation of pregnancy that has come down to us (we also talked about it here). Recognizable and a universal symbol of motherhood, this discovery remains a reference point when discussing the representation of this theme. Conner, referring to this icon, shares an episode that we recount here, bringing us to the heart of the behind-the-scenes of To Be.

«One night in the summer of 2023 when I was developing the last negatives for this project the temperature in my darkroom reached 100 degrees. Overwhelmed by the heat and the intensity of these images, I left the negatives in a water holding bath overnight. When I went to hang them up the next morning I was horrified when the emulsion began sliding down the plastic base of the film. I hurriedly held up one of the sheets of film to the light box and took a photograph. Suddenly, there was a Venus of Willendorf of my own. Now, I see the shape or spirit of Venus in each one of these portraits, images of seen and unseen transformations that give rise to human life. I also see my own inspiration to understand and describe the pregnant form — fertility, fecundity, hope, birth, precarity and even time itself.»

Photographybook
Written by Anna Frattini
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