Photo Fictions of the Female Form Is absence more

Photo
Fictions of the Female Form

Is
absence more powerful than presence in feminist photography?

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Exploring use of
absence as a strategy of resistance to representation attached to the
female form within the social, political and cultural understanding
women and the photograph.

The
depiction of women within photography, and art as a whole is by no
means a new topic; but rather a constant debate revolving around the
representation of women in history, politics, philosophy, society and
culture. In short how women are represented within the (Western)
world. It is instinctive within this instance to explore the theory
around ‘representation’ and ‘women’ before any attempt in practical
analysis or understanding of photographic discourse of female
representation. Thus through the work of feminist authors; Laura
Mulvey, Joan Scott and Griselda Pollock –

Representation
conveys meaning within culture through the use of language.
Language in this case referring to the theory of structuralist
linguistics and anthropology(STU
HALL REF). That is to say a collection of meaning constituting
systems used in order to organise cultural practices and how the
individual relates these to the world around him or herself. Joan
Scott writes in relation to deconstructing the ‘Qquality/ Difference’
debate; (FOOT)”Without
attention to language and the processes by which meaning and
categories are constituted, one only imposes oversimplified models on
the world, models that perpetuate conventional understanding rather
than open up new imperative possibilities.”(SCOTT)
With Scott’s words in mind one comes to Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx
in a possibly inefficacious yet
compulsive attempt to traverse and link two of the most famous and
influential thinkers of the past two hundred years. Marxist and
Freudian ideology and appropriation appear repeatedly within feminist
discourse; both as a structure for understanding and as a point of
opposition. Insofar as representation is concerned it becomes
relevant to centre on the hypothesis of Fetishism with relation and
In correlation to both men.

Firstly
there is the possibility of a link in concept; as explored through
Mulvey’s 1996 book ‘Fetishism
and Curiosity’
(MULVEY
REF).
In the second instance exists a connection through the terminology in
the way of language and semiotics. Fetishism with relation to Marx
refers to commodity fetishism- the communal view that it is
ineluctable
to measure worth of commodity through an abstract medium of exchange
such as money. (MARX
REF)
In Freud’s work the fetish refers to the sexual behaviour or
attraction within an individual which Freud deems deviant from social
norm.(FREUD
REF) The
deviance occurring from the displacement of sexual desire due to
castration fear (FOOT
NOTE).
Marxist fetishism deals with the exchange-value of commodities in
economic production and consumption by society as a group in mass-
Freud’s Fetishism contrasts with focus on the individual’s sexual
desire and consumption of a product (TIM
DANTE REF)

At
first glance the two concepts appear to correlate solely through
name, and understandably for as Mulvey states ” the differences
between the two invocations of fetishism are as, or more, significant
than their similarities”. In other words it is easier to find
comparison in the differences than similarities.

When
one shifts into the position of examining fetishism primarily with
regard to representation- additional territory for creativity in
forming a structure of understanding appears. Consider
fetishism, now, through eyes of Ferdinand De Saussure (footnote)
and semiotics. Through which we understand that to represent is not
only to ‘depict’ or recreate mental ‘likeness’ but also to symbolise
or substitute (HALL
REF).
Thus in this sense fetishism is a system of representation, for in
both cases the physical is replaced with a conceptual represented
meaning. In Marxist terms it is value. The value of a tangible
commodity is replaced by the conceptual value of an abstract monetary
system with no basic physical worth. It is a representation of value
through what it can be exchanged for in contrast to the object
itself.

Turning
once again to the concept of language and anthropology it becomes
imperative to examine the theories posed by Griselda Pollock’s
‘Missing
Women: re-thinking thoughts on images of women’.
In order to discuss women as a category of representation Pollock
briefly touches upon Cloude Levi-Strauss (FOOT)
about whom she writes ” For Levi-Strauss, society, which is
synonymous with culture, is a series of systems of exchange”. With
more in-depth reflection it is again possible to relate
representation back to Marx and fetishism. For instance the
production of meaning through differences seen in both structuralism
and post-structuralism. With regard to Levi-Strauss the understanding
of family (kin) is through the juxtaposition of social or cultural
family through the alliance of marriage. Of which constitutes social,
sexual and economic practices along with the exchange of wealth and
finally reproduction- in this case the woman, in her roles as
daughter, wife and mother becomes fetishised into a commodity
exchanged by men to which the prior mentioned values are equated.
(REFRubin,
Gayle)In
this instance the woman holds value outside of the value of a human-
and furthermore represents an exchangeable object which bring us to
the idea of ‘Women as a Commodity’.

In
psychoanalysis women is defined as sign in a phallocentric model of
signification