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  • "Enigmatic Spectacle: Key Strategies in Contemporary Staged Photography."

Soutter, Lucy, 2008, Book Section, "Enigmatic Spectacle: Key Strategies in Contemporary Staged Photography." In: Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography. Scala and National Museum of Women in the Arts, New York and Washington. ISBN 9781857595383

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Abstract or Description:

Soutter’s long-standing expertise and interest in gender representation was reflected in this commission to write an essay for the catalogue of an exhibition at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. (2008–9). Making an original argument about an unbroken tradition of fiction in photography by women, Soutter identified precedents for contemporary staged photography in 19th-century photographic tableaux, pictorialist photography, mid-20th-century documentary, and 1960s conceptual art.
The significance of Soutter’s essay lay in its specific focus on the work of women photographers, employing a feminist approach to consider previous blind spots in the literature and to foreground neglected female precedents. While staged photography has been discussed in relation to painting and the aesthetic realm, such analyses have failed to emphasise its potential for female artists who use collaborations with their subjects (Sharon Lockhart, Katy Grannan and Nikki S. Lee), constructions (Anna Gaskell) or highly personalised provocations (Nan Goldin) to specifically challenge assumptions about what it means to be, see or picture a woman.
Soutter presented close readings of selected historical images to read a number of historical works by women against the grain, interpreting pictorialism (Gertrude Käsebier) as a mode for exploring the politics of identity rather than just Arcadian fantasies; mid-century documentary (Dorothea Lange) as a parallel to realist fiction in literature; and conceptual art (Eleanor Antin) as a narrative mode in opposition to the analytic tautologies of artists such as Joseph Kosuth. The essay closed by identifying a key trend since postmodernism: the desire of artists to be both critical observers and engaged participants, in a problematic blurring of documentary and formalism, realism and subjectivism.
Soutter was subsequently invited to lecture on gender and photography, including at the Photography Research Forum of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London (2011).

Subjects: Other > Social studies > L200 Politics > L210 Political Theories > L216 Feminism
Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography > W640 Photography
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2011 13:50
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2014 13:07
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/756

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