by Sophia Alhadeff
This month The Mac Weekly ventured to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to see Anne Collier’s latest exhibition, Women with Cameras (Self Portrait). Located in the photography section of the museum, the exhibition features 80 35mm slides of found photographs depicting self portraits of young women. Together the photographs depict a sense of self identity and nostalgia by exploring the concept of “selfies” before the digital era.
Anne Collier, born in 1970, is a photographer who works with found photographs. Collier currently lives and works in New York, but previously studied in California. Today, Collier explores the conventions of commercial photography, autobiography and gender politics, as well as the act of looking and seeing.
Collier’s Women with Cameras (Self Portrait) includes numerous found photographs of young women to create a sense of individual reflection and timeless youthfulness. The photographs are presented on a projector within a dark room. As the photo roll circulates, the first few images are blurry, capturing the viewer’s attention. Many of the photographs de-emphasize the faces of the women with the strong use of flash. The collection of found images feature portraits of women ranging in age from early adolescence to 30 years old.
Once discarded by a young woman, each image serves as a captured moment in each of the subject’s lives as they have begun to explore their personal identities. Numerous photographs feature scenes of intimate settings such as bedrooms and bathrooms. By presenting a long series of “in the moment” snapshots, Collier combines typical coming-of-age perceptions with more confident sexual images, which morph together to create a truthful, nostalgic overtone to the piece. While some images capture a sense of confidence, others convey apprehension and nervousness, asking the viewer what is left out of this frame? This idea is echoed in the frame of the image itself; many of the shots are taken at an angle with an off-kilter orientation.
Additionally, mirrors serve as a motif of capturing complex, nuanced emotion throughout the collection. Most of the pictures are taken with disposable cameras, while others, primarily the later images, are taken with personal film cameras. Photographs from both styles of cameras are in and out of focus, reiterating the exhibition’s theme of seeing the subject as she sees herself and wants to be seen, which presents itself in a moment of change, fluctuation, and growth. Mirrors allow the viewer to feel immersed in the frames. By incorporating the viewer’s reflection in the frame, Collier provides commentary on the role of interior and exterior spaces. While the images are captured in personal, interior spaces, the viewer is also exposed to the subject’s exterior presentation of themselves. The relationship between each of these elements plays on the subjects’ uncertainty of their personal image.
Overall, Collier’s collection serves as a tool for self reflection. As each of these subjects actively present themselves in a newly defined manner, the viewer is invited to ask questions of themselves, especially in today’s era of social media. How do we present ourselves? How do we want to appear in the world and in our communities? How do these elements play a role in our relationships with others?
Anne Collier’s Women with Cameras (Self Portrait) can be viewed at the Minneapolis Institute of Art until December 17, 2017. Admission to the museum is free.