Blurring the boundary

Francesca Woodman’s photographs are often noted for her consistently recognisable approach; often they are black and white, square images; depictions of herself as blurred in motion; her own body flexed, replicated or merging into her environment.  Consistency is perhaps not a word one might associate with a woman who reached a point in her young life beyond which she could not continue. Her story moves me.

“The tension and strength of Woodman’s work lies in her ability to return again and again to this precise point of instability, to simultaneously create and explode the fragile membrane that protects one’s identity from being absorbed by its surroundings.” (Sundell in Posner, in Chadwick, p167)

To blur bodily movements intentionally through photographic technique is often viewed as a way of dissolving form, reducing or removing clarity between oneself and the world.  Posner observes that Woodman was “photographically and symbolically blurring the boundary between her body and her environment” (in Chadwick, p168).  But this technique can also be an attempt to exhibit something else altogether; according to Liu, Woodman’s intention was “to ‘show you what you do not see – the body’s inner force’ (Woodman quoted in Jui-Ch’i Liu 2004, p.28)” (

Looking at this work is never easy, but it is successful in provoking thought around depictions of the self in photography to convey intended meanings or, perhaps, to distort or disguise meaning.



Chadwick, W. (ed) (1998)
Mirror Images: Women, surrealism and self-representation
MIT Press: London and Massachusetts

Liu, Jui-Ch’i (2004) in Francesca Woodman,
Accessed 01 October 2018



Woodman, F. (1975-8)
Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 [Photograph]
Available at:
Accessed: 01 October 2018



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