Untitled Woman

by Milja Laurila

The photographs in my latest work Untitled Women come from a scientific context, a 1930s book titled Woman. An Historical Gynæcological and Anthropological Compendium. Originally published in German in 1885 and written by three men, the book describes the female physiology with an anthropological view point. It is illustrated with hundreds of photographs of naked women and children from all over the world, primarily colonized countries. The photographed women are presented as exotic specimens and their body parts are scrutinized in detail. The images and the whole study are characterized by a confusing combination of sexual and epistemological desire. The captions reveal the attitude of the male researchers: “An Indian girl displays her charms.”; “Firm resilient breasts in a Tunisian.” In Untitled Women, I use a translucent paper to hide the original photograph. In the anthropological book, a detailed assessment of the women’s body parts was at the center of focus, but now only the women’s eyes remain accurately visible through a hole cut in the paper. The closer the viewer gets to the woman, the less accurate the image of the body, with the structure of the translucent paper obscuring the view. I turn the attention to the women’s eyes and the power of their gaze. Now it is them who are looking at you. How does it feel to be looked at?

Photographs of the works: Marcus Schneider