SOME/IMAGE : 'ANIMUS' BY ELISABETH SUNDAY
For many years photographer, Elisabeth Sunday, has found her inspiration in Africa. Her work is based on her vivid dreams of elongated and surged imagery that is influenced by a painting her grandfather made in the 1930ʼs. After these dreams occurred she searched for her own way to elongate her photographs, and in 1983 she started to photograph with a mirror.
Sundayʼs technique is remarkable, and to get a sense of what is in her mind when she create these curvilinear and elongated pictures it sounds like this:
I continue to use the mirror as a visual interpreter for the invisible forces that bind the forms of life together; each one connected through a pulsing, writhing sea of forms and shapes, from the great to the small, the complex to the simple.
- Elisabeth Sunday
Gender theorist, Judith Butler, would say that the body itself is not comprehensible; she argues that the comprehensible body is shaped through culture and its social context, and when a woman like Sunday reaches outside the ʻframeʼ of what can be seen as comprehensible, the woman is seen as offensive and therefore incomprehensible. This incomprehensibleness is born through the dominated gaze that is hidden in her photographs, behind the black chador. As the subjectʼs gaze makes her present for the spectator, the male gaze is reduced and therefore can Sundayʼs Anima not be objectified in that sense. There is such power in these photographs, where the woman is elongated, stands tall, twirls and observes you without your awareness. In contrast to the black silhouettes in the Anima series; Sunday has another approach in her Animus series. Here Sunday has photographed a man that with different looks and shapes stands in front of the camera looking away or in some photographs looking straight into the camera piercing the spectator with his intensifying gaze. The Animus figure rises like a tree, tall and monumental.
The mirror is present as a creative tool in both her series Anima and Animus.
When you look at the Anima series you see a long curvy black silhouette, which forms a strong contrast against the white background. In Anima the nomadic subject holds a textile or a chador that covers her face which makes the spectator wonder whether the subject can see us or not. Are we the spectator just as much as the subject who observes us through her chador? In Sundayʼs photography there is no obvious gaze, and this is close to what feminist Laura Mulvey says about women and how they often are represented. She argues that most women are represented with a gaze that is not present, and therefore what she calls a ”passive spectacle”. However, the difference here is that the woman behind the chador might be looking right at you without you even knowing.
In Animus the figureʼs body is painted with white color, different patterns in each photograph. Unfortunately for most western people, the body paint does not give meaning, because in the West it is more often seen as decoration. This is because people who have access to Sundayʼs work are not familiar with the white body paint and what it is representing, and therefore the photograph might be incomprehensible to a lot of spectators.Sundayʼs photographs are very interesting and can be interpreted in many different ways, but as discussed here after looking at her photographs, the feminine naturalness and masculine identity is evident.
Text by Erika Fehre | S/TUDIO