Chris Kraus on Francesca Woodman


“Woodman loved gelatine prints, long exposures, and cemeteries. Jokes, vintage clothing, angels and ghost girls,” says the praised American writer and filmmaker Chris Kraus of American photographer Francesca Woodman (1958-1981), who photographed herself thousands of times, took her own life at 22 and is now considered a legend in modern photography.

Kraus begins by talking about two untitled photographs, which are rare colour-images among the around 120 prints from the artist’s estate that have been exhibited so far: “By this time, she’d photo-graphed herself thousands of times. It wasn’t narcissism or curiosity or fascination, although maybe sometimes it was.” Woodman had tried using friends or family as models but felt they were playing dress-up: “The levels I try to get to are not about the having fun part,” Woodman had said. “It’s amazing how powerfully a nude body can activate any landscape. The first thing a photographer needs to figure out is how to make an image speak for itself. Woodman understood this at a very young age very well,” Kraus says. In Woodman’s time, she continues, “photography still hadn’t completely migrated into the realm of contemporary art. Photography had its own stars, its own exhibition hierarchies.” Consequently, Woodman struggled and tried to earn a living shooting fashion while pursuing her own work: “These two coloured photographs, timeless and yet indelibly time-stamped in downtown New York at the end of the 1970s, embody that proposition,” Kraus concludes.

Chris Kraus (b. 1955) is an American writer and filmmaker. She is widely known for her feminist novel ‘I Love Dick’ (1997), which the English newspaper The Guardian proclaimed, “the best novel written about men and women in the 20th century”. When ‘I Love Dick’ was reissued in 2006, it aroused great attention. In 2016 the novel was turned into a TV series by the same name. Among Kraus’ other books are the novels ‘Aliens & Anorexia’ (2000) and ‘Summer of Hate’ (2012) as well as the biography ‘After Kathy Acker’ (2017).

Francesca Woodman (b.1958-d.1981) is an American photographer particularly known for her black and white pictures featuring either herself or female models, naked or clothed, blurred (due to move-ment and long exposure times), merging with their surroundings or with faces obscured. Major solo exhibitions
(posthumously) include SFMoMA in San Francisco, The Photographer’s Gallery in London, and Solo-mon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

In the video, Chris Kraus reads a text about Francesca Woodman. The text is called ‘Proposition’ and the works in focus are an untitled series of photos from 1979-80. The text is written for the anthology ‘Looking Writing Reading Looking – Writers on Art from the Louisiana Collection’ (2019). More in-formation here: https://www.artbook.com/9788793659216.html

Francesca Woodman: © 2019 Estate of Francesca Woodman/Charles Woodman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VISDA.

Edited by Kasper Bech Dyg
Produced by Kasper Bech Dyg and Christian Lund
Sound recordings by Pejk Malinovski
Cover photo: Detail from ‘Untitled, New York, 1979-1980’ by Francesca Woodman. Courtesy of the artist
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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