Photography and the Psychological

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman was a photographer who explored subjects of representation and poignant symbolism in which her work refers to personal issues such as identity and gender.  Following her studies in Italy,  Woodman began to use performance in her creative practice in which she was influenced from photographer Max Klinger.  Woodman experiments with objects and portraiture and often uses herself as part of the subject matter in which she creates slow exposures capturing herself as a blurred subject to form a ghostly appearance.   Woodman sadly took her own life at the tender age of just 22 years old but left behind a vast collection of works set in abandoned spaces.

Woodman explores the psychological aspects of self evaluation as she places herself in confined spaces evoking a sense of entrapment which may make one feel they are intruding in her seclusion.  Woodman makes her presence vague among the surroundings as she lurks in discreet corners or moves frantically enough that we can only make her out as a trace in the background.  One particular image of her lying underneath a door in the open space of a room evokes a sense of weakness and intense self torment.

I find Woodman creates a powerful atmosphere within her imagery as she exposes herself very intimately and this brings a pureness to her psychological narratives.  Woodman creates an effective impact in how she uses objects almost threateningly towards her own body where this brings a dominant presence in the objects as active instruments.  I admire her composition and I personally find she reflects herself strongly as a human individual.  This has influenced my own creative practice in terms of how I could purposely make the audience feel uncomfortable as this approach may bring across the reality of psychological struggle to a greater degree.

Ai Weiwei

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei works in a variety of media including photography, film, sculpture and audio in which he explores subjects of irony and activism.  Weiwei has featured in various documentaries which follows his exploration of international issues which contributes as a progressive aspect of his work.  Weiwei has exhibited internationally and has participated in activist activities that has also made him to be known as a controversial artist.

The three piece series ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn‘ (1995) is one piece where Weiwei brings about a controversial message in which we witness the artist in three ‘freeze frame’ photographs of him dropping a historical Chinese artefact to the floor, destroying it in the process.  Weiwei keeps an emotionless expression as we witness these actions, conveying further disturbance.  The images act as a preservation for the object and a figment of a two dimensional subject as now it is only present in these images.  Weiwei produces an intensity, especially in the second image as the artist brings across the notion that time has stopped as the artefact has not yet hit the ground.  Weiwei brings a sense of past, present and future as in the first image, the artefact still exists, the second shows the active process of dropping it and the final image shows the result of its destruction.

I find Weiwei brings an effective symbolic approach to his works and goes beyond the boundaries to convey a message that could be rather daring and surprising in almost a stubborn way.  I do find the way he communicates his motives is controversial, however he succeeds in establishing a reaction.  This type of active practice Weiwei executes influences my developmental process of my own narratives where I could experiment with interaction with objects in a way how you wouldn’t normally use them.


Exploring other psychological examples of work has given me insight into how I could further challenge the audience through means of setting a specific task for the individual within the subject matter.  I find the way both Woodman and Weiwei execute their own visual roles in their work makes the content even more personal; we see the artist themselves fulfilling the actions seen where they are acknowledging the audience directly.


ARR Tate (2016) ‘Francesca Woodman’ [Online] Available from: (Accessed 29/04/2016)

ARR AI Weiwei (2016) ‘Biography-Projects’ [Online] Available from: (accessed 29/04/2016)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s