Skip navigation

It was on this date in 1981 that Francesca Woodman committed suicide by throwing herself out of a window in New York. We were contemporaries (I was born about four months before Woodman) and we also share, I’m troubled to admit, a certain darkness of spirit. Woodman’s darkness is, to me, the substance of her work while I’ve tried all along to keep mine as far away from my photography as possible. I’m not convinced I’m better for it.

Self-Portrait at Thirteen (Francesca Woodman - 1972)

Woodman’s work has “overly emotional teen-aged girl” written all over it except she never grew out of it. Hindsight suggests that her inner torment was very real and not the result of listening to too many sappy pop songs about heartbreak. Her work is bleak and empty, her faces often expressionless. Her models (frequently herself, sometimes others) strike contorted poses that bring to my mind a life that doesn’t fit well into its surroundings.

Space (Francesca Woodman - 1975/76)

She never did achieve much notoriety during her lifetime. She wasn’t able to find steady work as a photographer despite a Rhode Island School of Design pedigree.  Her suicide and the posthumous examination of her work in that context built her reputation. I can’t say I love her work but I have to admire the willingness to put her unvarnished soul on film the way she did. You can’t look at it without feeling her isolation and, if you’ve struggled with depression as I have, cringing at being reminded of your own.

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 )

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

%d bloggers like this: