In 2007, we were in the midst of the violent aftermath of the war with Iraq. At the moment when civilian and troop casualties were at their height with brutal and bloody retribution being meated out on all sides, I was sent on a tour of America to photograph people with extreme physical and emotional issues.
One subject, I met was Connie..
I mostly avoid naming the subjects of my work and this piece is titled ‘Woman Posing with Bandages, 2007’. My reasoning is that I don’t consider my images to be ‘portraits’. The final images at this stage of presentation are detached from their original purpose and any explanation is an irrelevance and distraction from their re-adjusted use. Of course this is a ‘portrait’ of Connie but only in a two-dimensional sense as she responds immediately to the presence of the camera. It is not a fair representation of her as a person.
This detachment from the original narrative is an essential element of the conceptual approach. I am primarily interested in dislocation as a tool to challenge the existing constructs that define our individual universes. Photography as record is perfect for this as it is the contemporary medium of representation of the world as reality. It is still subconsciously trusted and believed.
I am hostile to the use of the word ‘truth’ in describing any photographic work and I don’t trust those who use it. It’s a bit like trusting someone that says, “trust me”.
One truth or rather one reality about Connie is that she has spent her life ashamed and humiliated by her appearance. Prior to our meeting she had multiple invasive surgeries to overcome her long-term fight with obesity. The dichotomy is that whilst Connie is covered with swelling, scars and bandages, she is posing and smiling like a pageant beauty queen.
As she poses for the camera, in this default position that has represented an idealized notion of womanhood since the 15th century, this is the most beautiful she has ever felt. She is unaware of our perception of her physicality.
The image is purely a metaphor for denial. We are recipients of great personal freedoms and opportunity gifted by western capitalism but we are also prisoners to the decadent bi-products that encourages obsessive unhealthy introspection, depression and mental illness. We are detached but inevitably infected by the horrors being perpetrated in the process of protecting us and our idealized way of life.
|Woman Posing with Bandages, USA, 2007 © Richard Ansett|
|Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq © Photographer Unknown|