Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Communications and Creative Industries

First Advisor

Dr Rodney Giblett

Abstract

In 1999 I embarked on a photographic journey to various cities around the world. The photographs produced are the results of my critical attention as a woman and a feminist to the issues concerning gender, travel and landscape aesthetics. This dissertation is an analysis of my documentary photographs. I am interested in ways in which my photographs correspond with the French feminist theories of Helene Cixous and Lucy Irigaray on ecriture feminine. Their work on the politics of the body has been influential in my journey towards a photographie feminine. 'Moreover, I also incorporate the feminist work of cultural and travel theorists such as Elizabeth Wilson, Janet Wolf, Trinh T. Minh-ha, amongst others, in my 'writing the body'. A photographie feminine places an emphasis on the primacy of the feminin. My use of the term feminin is different from a masculine construct of the feminine. Instead, it resists the masculine closure of representation and attempts to depict feminin heterogeneity and feminin desire repressed by the Law of the Father. Importantly, it is also concerned with using and reworking the masculine myths and metaphors of the feminine. As such, much of my photography involves reframing found advertising images of women in the city, as well as self-representations. A photographie feminine also shares a number of similarities with postmodern documentary photography, such as self-reflexivity, a concern with power relationships and the nature of images and their circulation as well as the production of images that use irony as a political device. The concept of gendered spatiality is also central to this study. In the first chapter I describe my journey photography, linking the traditions of travel and landscape aesthetics to feminist theories of the body. In particular, I discuss my 'politics of location' which highlights the significance of gender and race in regards to 'how I see the world' as well as discussing my approach in reading the photographs. In the following chapter, Wanderlust, I examine the work of various journey photographers who have had an impact on my own practice. I also discuss the masculine proclivity of travel, the notion of exile and marginality in which travel becomes a route for self-reflection. In the third chapter, In/her Space, I explore my experience of travel and the issues that influence my use of space. I emphasise women's spatial mobility, my lived experience and how the camera is an extension of my subjectivity. In Urban Exposures, the fourth chapter, I describe the counter-aesthetics of the uncanny. Unlike the categories of the beautiful and the sublime, which follow a masculine discourse of containment and aestheticisation, the uncanny aims to disrupt masculine boundaries and divisions. I associate the uncanny in the reading of my photographs which involves the reframing of found images of women in the city. Moreover, through the trope of the femme fatale I examine the images of women in the city space, their profane sexuality and Kristeva's notion of the abject. Finally, in Reclamation I conclude that my photographie feminine represents a re-conceptualisation of the landscape from just a place to see to a more interactive space relating to a feminin experience. In this chapter the gender politics of body and space is represented through my documentary photographs of the J18 anti-capitalist rally 'Reclaim the Streets'. I compare and contrast my work to the photographs and reports of the mainstream press covering the event. Furthermore, I discuss how a photographie feminine may provide a counter-discourse to imperialising patriarchal representations.

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