Exercise: Nigel Shafran

Nigel Shafran’s series is the only one in this part of the course to be taken by a man – did this surprise me?

The subject matter – washing up – is one which past gender stereotypes would suggest being taken by a woman. But in this case the subject matter is not who did the washing up but, just as importantly the content of the narrative that accompanies each piece. In which case why would anyone be surprised if it was taken by a man or a woman? Does the question itself not suggest a level of sexism – are you surprised that a photograph of washing up was taken by a man?

Does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I find this a difficult question to answer as in general I think it is more down to the personality and interests of the individual artist rather than their gender. However are there some subject areas such as emotions or personalities that are more frequently explored by women rather than men? Perhaps gender soesn’t contribute to how an image is constructed but may contribute to the initial choice of subject to make an image from.

What does the series achieve by not including people?

I guess that this adds an aspect of mystery to the image, the viewer begins to wonder what the different people named in the title look like, by excluding them this makes you concentrate more on what the image is conveying both pictorially and from  its title.

Are they interesting still life compositions?

I must admit I was not initially attracted to the images as a series, I guess that the photos are the complete opposite of the Dutch Pronkstilleven paintings from the 17th Century. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I prefer the Dutch ‘ostentatious still life’ to the images presented by Shafran. While I acknowledge that he has an interesting concept and the idea of tying in the images with the narrative is a good one, I don’t find the images visually appealing.