Here, an interesting gallery of self-portraits by women photographers in the twenties and thirties.
|Germaine Krull, « Selbstporträt mit Ikarette », 1925, Sammlung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich © Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen. Courtesy : Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde / Pinakothek der Moderne München, 2011|
|Andreas Feininger, « Der Fotojournalist » , 1955 © gettyimages / Andreas Feininger|
|Fred Boissonnas, « Selbstporträt mit Kamera » , 1900, Archiv Borel-Boissonnas © Fred Boissonnas. Archives Borel-Boissonnas|
|Imogen Cunningham, « Self-Portrait with Korona View » , 1933 © The Imogen Cunningham Trust / www.imogencunningham.com|
Whereas the mirror in which Germaine Krull photographed herself is invisible in the photograph, the self-portraits of other female photographers, such as Ilse Bing, Florence Henri and Lotte Jacobi, show the mirrors explicitly. Indeed, the deliberate incorporation of the mirror is typical of women photographers’ self-portraits of the 1920s. Many of their male counterparts also photographed themselves in mirrors, but these photographs were mostly snapshot-like photographs of themselves at their work, reflected in the distorting convex surfaces of car headlamps (Renger-Patzsch, Umbo, among others) or in distorting mirrors (Kertész), and were rather optical curiosities than works of self-discovery or introspection.
|Ilse Bing, « Selbstporträt mit Leica » , 1931, Privatsammlung Paris © Estate of Ilse Bing|
Ilse Bing’s self-portrait shows the photographer at once fascinated by her rôle as an artist-engineer and reticent about it. The photograph does in fact contain two self-portraits. Whilst the image within the image portrays her in the pose of a land surveyor standing behind her measuring apparatus, her pose in the foreground is that of the photographer glancing over the top of her camera. This slightly aloof posture prevents the eye from becoming totally identifiable with the camera lens.
|Lotte Jacobi, « Autoportrait » , 1937, Fotografische Sammlung im Museum Folkwang, Essen © The Lotte Jacobi Collection|
|Florence Henri, « Selbstporträt » , 1928, Neuabzug 1974, Archiv Florence Henri, Galleria Martini & Ronchetti, Genua © Martini & Ronchetti, Genoa, Italy|
|Ergy Landau, « Autoportrait » , 1932, Collection APH, Courtesy C. Bouqueret, Paris © Ergy Landau / Rapho|
|Marianne Breslauer, « Die Fotografin » , 1933, Fotostiftung Schweiz, Marianne Breslauer Archiv © Marianne Breslauer Archiv/Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur|
|Imogen Cunningham, « Self-Portrait, Grass Valley 2 » , 1946 © 1946, 2011 The Imogen Cunningham Trust / www.imogencunningham.com|
The 1920s are the decade of masquerade in the history of modern art. Was it the coming of the cinema, that “Hades of the Living”, in which the protagonists forever assume new identities and “the shadows already become immortal while still alive”, or was it first and foremost the psychological consequences of the profound social changes following the First World War which made masks, disguises and rôle-playing the favourite means of self-stylization and self-discovery among artists and writers of both sexes?
|Claude Cahun, « Frontière humaine », publiée dans la revue « Bifur » , n°5, avril 1930|
|Claude Cahun, « Autoportrait » , 1927, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, © RMN/Gérard Blot|
Neither Claude Cahun nor Marcel Duchamp were professional photographers. She was an authoress, he was a visual artist, both of them obeying Baudelaire’s maxim that the imagination must always take precedence over reality. Duchamp’s game with sexual identities was bound up with his aesthetic of the possible. “The figuration of a possible./ (not as the opposite of impossible / nor as related to probable / nor as subordinated to likely)”, he writes in one of his often sibylline notes during the period around 1915, “the possible is only/ a physical ‘caustic’ (vitriol type) / burning up all aesthetics or callistics”. Whether aesthetic or poetical, both Marcel Duchamp and Claude Cahun had an open way of thinking which gave priority to intellectual inventiveness, to the sheer pleasure of thinking what had never been thought before. If they are nowadays regarded as the most important artists of their day, then it is because at that time, when the discourse on truth and progress in the movements of classical modernism (Futurism, Constructivism, Surrealism) was at its peak, they were already practising a “post-modern” aesthetic concept based on the constant transcendence of given boundaries, a concept in which dogmas, definitions and limitations counted for nothing, a concept in which the one always revealed itself as the other.
This original article was written by Herbert Molderings & Barbara Mülhens-Molderings and publish on Jeu de Paume/le magazine.