Francesca Woodman

Made by Naomi Sternstein

Created: October 1st, 2014


Francesca Woodman photographed mainly during the 1970's, and is still known today for her black and white photographs, usually featuring herself. Her photographs often contained images (usually bodies) blurred from movement and fading into the background and surroundings. The faces of these bodies were often hidden or obscured, almost like Woodman was focusing on the movement itself, and on the forms as another object just like the stains on the walls, rather than personalized living people. 


I chose Francesca Woodman’s photographs because I think she manipulates her scene to create a very strong and beautiful, albeit eerie, image. She utilizes a slow shutter speed very well to create blurred forms and blurred images of people, who are often “faceless”. These blurred images are as much the subject as the dark stains on the walls and as the surroundings. Specifically, in the image with the blurred legs, she uses the rule of thirds and balances the darkness from the legs on the left with the darkness of the stain on the wall on the right. The point of view for most of the images are head on and very direct- we are looking straight out into the space.


When setting up and taking my own photos, I tried to follow similar guidelines that Francesca Woodman used for hers.

1. These photos were self-portraits, and I used a tripod and a self-timer to allow myself to be in the image. Even though I used myself, a person, as an object in the image, just like Francesca Woodman I chose to hide my face- that is because I think for her the movement and ethereality of the body was more important than recognition of the facial features.

2. A slower shutter speed, to allow the movement to enter into the image in the form of blurriness. I also had to make sure to balance the amount of light coming into the image by continuously adjusting the aperture each time I adjusted the shutter speed in order to make sure that the image was neither too bright nor too dark.

3. The rule of thirds was used to create a balanced image with the other objects in the photos, and to allow the blurred images to "fit" with the other images in the background.

4. I also used a similar perspective as the perspective in Woodman’s photos: I took the photos straight-on, which I think places you in the room with the movement. Looking at these images straight-on as opposed to from above or below adds some reality to an otherwise very ethereal and eerie image.  


Since I had to take these photos using the self-timer, a challenge that arose was creating the right placement and view of the movement before the movement actually occurred. Often I would look through the camera to see where an object was in the image, and try and arrange myself and the movement in the frame near the that object.

Also, at first my shutter speed was too slow, and it was hard to differentiate any object at all because of all of the movement, so I had to readjust until I thought that the speed was right and produced a movement that was not too blurry, but that still had clear movement and that still often "blended" with the surroundings.