Exercise: Everyday icons


Now that you’ve reached the end of this project on photography and feminism, try and produce an image that illustrates your feelings or approach to feminism using the technique of photomontage. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an active feminist or feel ambivalent or even hostile towards feminism in terms of producing this piece. Show your view!

Choose a range of items that represent feminism as you see it and make a collage from photographs of your chosen items. Play with scale, perspective and colour. Black and white – spot colour – it’s your choice.

Feel free to use text to illustrate, i.e. as image rather than text. You can use parts of found images as long as the concept and major images are your own.

Produce one photo collage digitally. Produce a second photo collage in a different, more tactile and responsive manner. Re-photograph the result. Your collages should be 2:1 ratio, i.e. twice as long as wide.

Write up the experience in your learning log or blog and comment on how well the two production methods worked.


Part 1: digital collage

Appropriately for the digital collage I worked with the subject of recent online ‘feminist’ (or rather anti-feminist) scandals. I’m continually dismayed at what insecure men take offence at. There are some ludicrous examples of things that have sparked a vicious anti-women response:

  • Video gaming (‘#Gamergate’)
  • Jane Austen being on the back of the forthcoming £10 note
  • A cupcake sale in Australia with gender-differential pricing to highlight the pay gap

The rise in aggressive anti-feminism is in no small part due to the anonymity afforded by the internet – the so-called ‘keyboard warriors’ who work out their insecurities from the comfort of home, mocking or in some cases threatening others (usually women) for offending their delicate grasp on the patriarchy. I chose to satirise this with a piece I’ve called What Men Fear.

What Men Fear.jpg
What Men Fear

Part 2: physical collage

After the bruising negativity of the digital collage, I took a different approach to the physical one. I wanted to celebrate the positive aspects of feminism, and after much consideration I decided that the two things I think of when I think of contemporary feminism are:

  • Positive, non-radical, inclusive role models in the media
  • How women are inherently more inclined to look out for each other, and identify/empathise with their gender much more than men do (understandable, as the subservient gender for most of human history)

The concept that came to mind was the notion of seeing through the eyes of others:

Revolution Eyes.jpg
Revolution Eyes

By the way, I thought the 2:1 ratio requirement was so arbitrary and restrictive as to be ignorable. My execution needed a square canvas.

What I’ve learned

My aversion to collage / photomontage remains. I appreciate the work of people who are very good it, but a lot of montage work – especially politically-based work – comes across as a bit ‘sixth form art student’. Mine isn’t even that good.

Having said that, despite not thinking much of the quality of the end result, I found the process strangely enjoyable! In both cases it felt like I was methodically constructing an image piece by piece instead of capturing a moment. In that sense there’s a greater sense of authorial control, even if some of the component parts were found rather than taken by me.

Of the two, I found the second one more enjoyable. I think this was a combination of the more positive subject matter and the sheer physicality of cutting out and moving around bits of paper. I found it strangely therapeutic.


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