The Photographic Series

Tarrah Krajnak and Wilka Roig

Study 4 (a & b), 2008, from the series Light and Form (untitled #) is our  first collaborative project. It began as a response to a critique of our independent work given by an influential artist/critic/curator based in NYC. During separate studio visits we each received the same response: “As with most women who turn the camera on themselves, the work is overburdened with emotion.” This critique sent us on a search for our place as artists and individuals within the art world and within photographic history. What was originally a visual investigation became (untitled #) (CPW.org).

The Series Light and Form comes from the larger collaborative project from Tarrah Krajnak and Wilka Roig entitled “(untitled #)”, also including Hysteria Collection, Pose Archive, Anthology of Trends, among others. In the image that I chose to demonstrate the series, lies in the realm of contemporary photography. Each of these images as a whole are diptychs as well as self-portraits of the photographers. In these images, they pose for each other in white unitards, in varying art historical poses typical to women as the object of desire. They implement traditional techniques such as soft focus, blurred vignetting, and hand coloring of the images to further imply art historical references. The unitard serves not only to strip the individual identity away from the model, but also to take away the idea of sexual desire from the object. It is important to note, in this case, that the faces of the women are never fully seen; therefore, there is never a gaze in these images (CPW.org).

I would like to discuss how this series, as well as the duo’s work in general speaks directly to that of the photographic archive. If we look at the origins of the archive, we see that what was created was a hierarchy of social status—the creation of the other through the attempt of the creation of “one.” As Sekula referred to Foucault in The Body and the Archive, “…social power operates by virtue of a positive therapeutic or reformative channeling of the body”  (p 7).  How is the idea that this archive “quite literally [facilitates] the arrest of the referent” (p 7) too far divorced from the ideas that Krajnak and Roig are proposing in their theories? “This doubling [diptychs] creates a literal double-take and encourages the viewer to think twice about the conditions and the context in which the woman’s body is positioned and presented beyond the traditional aesthetics of light and form” (CPW.org). This process of photographing specific qualities or features, whether it be in early photography with African Americans or otherwise with women, leads a society to judge a person’s character or morality by the physical attributes of his or her body. It is quite empowering to note that by taking the archive into the hands of the female photographer, and by creating this satire with the forms and poses, the power is essentially channeled back to the model herself. It only makes me question whether or not the project would have been more successful if instead of focusing on the removal of the gaze, it would have been more true to that of the origins of the criminal photographic archive or early medical studies. The specificity that is inherent in phrenology could have made a very powerful statement—something that Myra Greene explored as part of her cultural heritage in her project Character Recognition where she made ambrotypes to once again question the modern day validity we give to phrenology. Due to the personalization of this, it would seem that the power they seek to reclaim would be even more eminent, and therefore more successful to the task of deconstructing gender roles in our modern society.

           

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Krajnak, Tarrah, and Wilka Roig. “”Anthology of Trends” Work by Tarrah Krajnak and Wilka Roig.” The Center for Photography at Woodstock. Web. 22 Oct. 2011. <http://cpw.org&gt;.

Sekula, Allan. “The Body and the Archive.” 39.Winter (1986): 3-64. Print.

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