Laura Joyce takes a look at the photobook curated by Charlotte Jansen, Girl on Girl
Photographs of women taken by women are nothing new in a time when most people have access to a camera and women are no longer chained to the kitchen sink. But the “female gaze” is currently having a moment in the artworld and female photographers are breaking boundaries both in terms of creativity and relating to gender.
Girl on Girl is a photobook curated by Charlotte Jansen and it features the works of 40 contemporary female photographers. The images are as diverse as the women who took them; the photographers come from different countries and cultures, and the images vary in style, yet are united through the concept of the female gaze.
Each artist has their own story to tell, resulting in photographs that succeed in both aesthetics and meaning. Lebohang Kganye layers images of herself over old photos of her mother, wearing the same clothes and recreating her mother’s pose, resulting in ghostlike apparitions that hover in the original image and explore the similarities that appear across the generations. Her images have a beautiful ephemeral quality, yet there is a sad nostalgia to them as they reflect how brief a relationship between mother and daughter can be.
Contrastingly Mihaela Noroc photographs women of today, with the aim of capturing a woman in every single country. She celebrates the diversity of female beauty, her work perfectly illustrates that it shouldn’t be limited to a Westernised ideal. Noroc has photographed women, so far, from a variety of places, including India, the Amazon Rainforest and China. Each woman is unique and of equal importance in every image.
The female gaze can transform the way that women are viewed, challenging old fashioned opinions. Tonje Bøe Birkeland does just that by championing the idea of the female explorer, a figure who is often overlooked by history. Birkeland stands alone in barren, hostile landscapes that seem to be never ending, yet her figure is a point of gravity within the image, secure in itself and in its surroundings. She portrays a woman who is brave and daring, one who is not afraid of adventure.
Yvonne Todd also seeks to transform stereotypes; she takes the idea of the traditional, glamourous housewife and turns it around to reveal a more disturbing side. A woman with shiny hair and perfect make up stands in a quilted dressing gown, staring frightenedly at the lens with red-rimmed eyes which don’t quite match the rest of her appearance.
Another image captures a necklace entwined in the delicate fingers of a manicured hand, but the acrylic nails are so long they become claw-like and threatening. Todd’s women challenge the Hollywood housewife ideal and her photographs convey a sense of eeriness and of unease.
Every page of Girl on Girl is different. Some of the photographs are easy to look at, with colours and compositions that please the eye; others are more shocking and are even grotesque. But they all celebrate femininity and the creativity of women today.