Gwaith Merched - Women's Work
Capturing Contemporary Documentary Images
My own mother was in the Land Army during WWII and the images of her working on a farm led me to explore how working women, especially in non-traditional roles, are perceived and represented in images.
During WWII work in American factories was promoted as glamorous, to encourage women to join the workforce. All the images were posed and lit, the women were wearing make-up, red lipstick and with their hair done and wearing clean, new clothes. These women were known as the 'Rosie Riveters'. In Britain the Ministry of Information promoted the Land Army through images depicting women having fun in groups or smiling while baling hay.
There have been many incarnations of Rosie, some more realistic, like Jo Spence's picture of her mother Rosy, as a war worker and historical documentary images, can be seen at the Harvard University Library collection - Women Working 1800- 1930. More recent collections such as Chris Crisman's Women's Work still have a cinematic quality and are staged and lit.
When exhibiting my own initial images of a woman farmer, I became even more interested in the perception of women's work. People assumed it was a male, they didn't appear to question their own perception and stereotypical expectations. This has led me to seek out women working in less traditional roles and capture and represent women's work and challenge stereotypes.
I photograph women working in their own environments, capturing and documenting their activity. I don't ask them to be anything other than themselves, real women working, with or without makeup. I use natural or flash lighting but the images are not staged.
'Despite women representing half of our population, they only occupy 0.5% of recorded history' http://www.womensworkdocumentary.org/