Francesca Woodman: Gesture and Play


By Laura McIntyre


At Kimba we’re always seeking nuanced ways to present garments, as part of a wider exploration of women’s interaction with the environment. We’re interested in how play and gesture are used in fashion photography, and art more broadly. This could be anything from a subtle movement of the hand, an exaggerated, fluid backbend, or full-blown choreography. Fashion photography, and photography of the female form more broadly, brings Francesca Woodman’s work to the forefront of our mind.



Woodman is known for her black-and-white self-portraits, which demonstrate photographic prowess and a tasteful collection of vintage dresses. Partly out of convenience, she used herself as a photographic subject, making her work highly personal, touching on the grey area between exterior and interior worlds.

The backdrop in which she’s situated is often a barren, decrepit room. The subject- she- is enclosed yet pervaded by her surroundings. She transcends the corporeal, sometimes floating, or is displaced in space by mirrors. She invokes something ‘beyond’, and the female form visually develops into a more ethereal and beautiful state. The photos are enigmatic, and clothing goes beyond decorative: they’re part of Woodman’s own transfiguration.



Woodman physically breaks out of the domestic prison, even if it is a difficult process. This difficulty is expressed in the interplay between revealing and concealing the body. Her subjects seem in an in-between state, never wholly in view, always moving. Woodman often emphasises hands: bent, pulling her hair, or gesturing to nothing in particular, an empty space.



One of her photos is delightfully named ‘I’m trying my hand at fashion photography’, and this self-deprecating attitude makes her work even more likeable. In turn it goes far beyond the scope of fashion photography. Using only her studio and herself as subject, she leaves behind an intensive study of her body and its displacement in domestic spaces.


by Laura McIntyre

Laura McIntyre is a freelance editor and writer from London who's written for various publications including Tank magazine. 

Natalie Winter