Dawn Woolley “The Substitute”

Dawn Woolley – The Substitute

My artwork forms an enquiry into the act of looking and being looked at. I use photographs of objects and people to question issues of artificiality and idealisation. Referring to psychoanalysis, phenomenology and feminism I examine my own experience of becoming an object of sight and also consider the experience the viewer has when looking at me as a female, and a photographic object. 

Dawn Woolley’s self-portraiture work is not pursued in the traditional sense. For The Substitute, her work gives a really interesting example of a first-person point of view as she becomes literally the viewer as well as the object.  For the series she replaced her real self with printed life-size portraits of herself in various poses and photographed them in compromising positions with male subjects taken in real surroundings. Initially (some of) the photographs appear genuine, but on closer inspection they may be viewed as cut-outs. Woolley claims that “This wilful delusion is inherent to the medium of photography – the desire to look at a 2-dimensional photograph and believe in the integrity of the 3-dimensional objects that are suggested by the surface.” [1]

woolley-1 woolley-3  woolley-2

For me, by depicting her own body in this way Woolley is able to suggest her presence while confirming her absence – look but cannot touch. The work displays the female body as an object that can be picked up and used, however it does not exist in reality, therefore creating a fantasy. Woolley goes on to say, By producing artwork that establishes me as an object it could be argued that I reinforce stereotypical images of the female body.” 

So, I now reflect on how do I see myself? How much of my self-image is based on how I believe others see me? How much of it stems from how I would like others to see me?

1. Woolley, D. (2008). The Substitute. available from: beautifuldecay.com/2014/03/03/dawn-woolleys-unusual-self-portraits-address-female-stereotypes/[Accessed 20th January 2017]