Image of the Day

Specially curated
365 Days, 365 Images
of National/International
Photographers

An Image a Day
Let us engage with this
Fascinating Medium that
Breaks all boundaries

Jo Spence (collaboration with Rosy Martin), Untitled, from the series Libido Uprising, 1989, chromogenic colour print. Jo Spence Memorial Archive, gift of Terry Dennett, Ryerson Image Centre
Untitled, from the series Libido Uprising © Jo Spence 1989 (Collaboration with Rosy Martin) | Image source internet

Jo Spence

Ywould say all my work has been concerned to subvert dominant images of women; however, the real problem for me has been how to represent the class connotations of this, which is why I am entering the spheres of debates around power.

Jo Spence

Jo Spence (1934– 1992) was a British photographer, writer, cultural worker, and photo therapist. She has been an integral figure within photographic discourse from the 1970s onwards. She began her career in the field of commercial photography but soon started her own agency which specialized in family portraits and wedding photos. Her early experiences led her to an acute understanding of the mechanics of photography from the practical to more theoretical considerations. In the 1970s, she refocused her work towards documentary photography, adopting a politicized approach to her art form, with socialist and feminist themes revisited throughout her career. Self-portraits about her own fight with breast cancer, depicting various stages of her breast cancer to subvert the notion of an idealized female form, inspired projects in ‘phototherapy’, a means of using the medium to work on psychological health.

Although Spence’s work would later critique orthodox documentary procedures, her early work articulated a desire to create photographs that run counter to the idealized imagery offered by advertising. Throughout her diverse projects, she is well known for her highly politicized approach to photography and the representation of her own struggles with cancer. In 1972 she joined the Children’s Rights Workshop and produced a series called Children Photographed. She then collaborated with Terry Dennett on the publications Photography/Politics: One and Two which were linked to their involvement with the journal Camerawork. In 1974 she joined the Hackney Flashers with whom she created two photo-projects: Women and Work and Who’s Holding the Baby?. Her documentation of her treatment for breast cancer led to her important work A Picture of Health?. Spence’s books include Putting myself in the Picture (1986).

In 1982, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her diagnosis, Spence started to focus on identity, subjectivity, mental and physical health. She rejected conventional therapy and explored holistic therapy and the personal and feminist political dimension of living with cancer. It was through experiencing the effectiveness of using photography in confronting and documenting her hospitalization and illness that Spence, with Rosy Martin, developed ‘phototherapy’ in which the subject was empowered to control their image to discover and represent unexpressed or repressed feelings and ideas. By working collaboratively the person in front of the camera was both subject and author of the image. Other collaborators/therapists included Ya’acov Kahn, David Roberts, and Dr. Tim Sheard.

Spence began The Final Project upon her diagnosis of leukemia in 1991. It occupied her until her last days. The Final Project looks to cultures that embrace and display death and dying in everyday life – Gothic imagery, Egyptian mummification rituals, or the smiling skeletons of Mexican dia de los muertos. Spence “got to know death”. In place of her own deteriorating body, she used dolls and masks, her own equivalent to the Egyptian shabti dolls that accompanied the deceased to their afterlife. Limited by physical frailty Spence returned to earlier works – mainly self-portraits – superimposing background shots of torn materials, dried surfaces, blood cells, or landscapes, creating new works. They show Spence’s concerns about material and bodily deterioration through the passing of time. Spence presents her own body ‘returning to nature’: being immersed in fields, floating in rocky landscapes, streams of water or clouds. Spence continued to make self-portraits up until her death, asking of her collaborator Terry Dennett to ensure that it “should not be too gruesome a death or near-death, portrait”. Spence’s control of the representation of her body, even as she lay dying, is a monument to her radical creative process and a testament to her refusal to bow to what is deemed an appropriate image of a woman.

Published on February 4, 2021
See All Image of the Day | 365 days, 365 images

Share

Home » Image of the day » Today's Image » Untitled, from the series Libido Uprising | Jo Spence 1989

Related Posts

Herero people of Namibia | Jim Naughten

November 20th, 2021|

Jim Naughten is a British Photographer, who originates from Bonaire,  Central America. Born in 1969, Jim Naughten was predominantly influenced by the 1980s. The 1980s were a tumultuous period culturally, and were marked by growing global capitalism, global mass media, significant discrepancies in wealth, alongside a distinctive sense of music and fashion, epitomised by electronic pop music and hip hop. Artists growing up during this time were heavily influenced by this cultural environment.

Andy Warhol by Albert Watson, 1985

November 12th, 2021|

Albert Watson (born 1942) is a Scottish fashion, celebrity and art photographer. He has shot over 100 covers of Vogue and 40 covers of Rolling Stone magazine since the mid-1970s, and has created major advertising campaigns for clients such as Prada, Chanel and Levis. Watson has also taken some well-known photographs, from the portrait of Steve Jobs that appeared on the cover of his biography, a photo of Alfred Hitchcock holding a plucked goose, and a portrait of a nude Kate Moss taken on her 19th birthday.

Paul’s Legs by Peter Hujar, 1979 | Image of the day

October 25th, 2021|

Peter Hujar (1934 – 1987) was an American photographer best known for his black and white portraits. He has been recognized posthumously as a major American photographer of the late-twentieth century. His countless square format works are direct, yet rendered with evocative tonal contrasts enhanced through his meticulous darkroom process. Among his subjects are scenes of death, the margins of New York's nightlife, cityscapes, landscapes, and intimate pictures of close friends and lovers.

The House of the Ballenesque | Roger Ballen

September 29th, 2021|

Roger Ballen (born 1950) is an American artist living in Johannesburg, South Africa. He born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first, he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on people’s doors, he discovered a world inside these houses which were to have a profound effect on his work.

2021-04-06T14:17:54+05:30
Go to Top