Francesca Woodman lived a brief time, but left some incredible photography as her legacy. She committed suicide by jumping from a loft window in New York in 1981. But already her photographic work was on its way to becoming a strong art form.
Virtually all of her work consists of self-portraits in black and white. She explained once, “It’s a matter of convenience—I’m always available.” But some of her work makes use of models, too.
Woodman attended the Rhode Island School of Design and traveled to Rome as part of its honors program, which proved to be a particularly prolific period. While there was little opportunity for her to show her work while she was alive, Woodman has been the subject of numerous posthumous solo exhibitions. I find her photographs haunting and often dark; always, they intrigue me.
In December of 2011, I saw a retrospective of her work at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. SFMOMA expressed the lure of her photographs just beautifully: "Thirty years after her death, they continue to inspire audiences with their dazzling ambiguities and their remarkably rich explorations of self-portraiture and the body in architectural space."
By the time she was 22, Woodman had made more than 10,000 negatives and 800 prints. Of those, only about 120 prints were published or exhibited. Her depression, possibly from a broken relationship as well as difficulty in gaining recognition for her work, was noticed in late 1980 with a first suicide attempt. In January of 1981, a few months later, she succeeded in leaving this world.
I wonder about Francesca Woodman. Now and then I come across her name, or one of her marvelous and distinctive photographs - and it always gives me pause. It's remarkable that her acclaim comes from her work as a student, and it leaves us to wonder what might have happened over the years with her art.
To read a lovely and moving article about her photographs, see a few more of them, and learn about a film entitled The Woodmans, follow this link: The Long Exposure of Francesca Woodman. It speaks of the artist's work better than anything else I've found - and it's a good tribute to the young photographer that lingers with you after the read.
By the time she was 22, she already made a mark on the world - one that remains for us to appreciate and enjoy.