Anne Collier. Woman with A Camera. January 27–March 25, 2018. FRAC NORMANDIE ROUEN3, place des Martyrs de la Résistance, 76300 Sotteville-lès-Rouen. France

Anne Collier (born 1970 in Los Angeles) is one of the leading photographer’s on the American scene. Since the 2000s, she has developed a seminal body of work on the photographic medium, dissecting almost forensically its imagery, codes, media and techniques. She uses objects or photos that she finds in manuals, calendars, posters, on record sleeves, magazine covers and postcards, which she photographs using commercial or studio photography techniques. These illustrations reflect the artist’s interest in the mass media and popular culture of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with their sources in the pre-digital age. The works also encompass autobiographical references, and Collier’s photos thus intimate an element of nostalgia, too, which attests to both the mnemonic and melancholic nature of her work, which is closely linked to the idea of loss.

For her first solo exhibition in France, the artist has chosen to focus on the question of how women are perceived and how they perceive themselves: the “Woman With A Camera” series is the most emblematic example of this. The series shows photos of magazine pages and covers in which the female body, in many cases naked, is instrumentalised. Despite a certain visual neutrality, Collier emphasises the eminently sexist nature of these images, which are used for commercial purposes. Other photos depict adverts in which the models or actresses take hold of the camera and aim it at the spectator, as a way of turning the “male perception” of women on its head. This also applies to the “Women With Cameras (Anonymous)” slideshow, in which the artist has compiled a collection of amateur photos of women holding a camera or taking photos. In addition, some of the photos from her latest series, “Women Crying,” will be widely used. The images, created from record album covers spanning the 1950s to the 1980s, which the artist has cropped and substantially enlarged, show part of a woman’s face with a shiny eye, shedding a tear. Through the emotional, sexual and/or personal connotations of these images, Anne Collier explores seduction and sex appeal, which are often artificial and purvey clichés, promoted by press and advertising photos, especially those vaunting the merits of photographic equipment and cameras. She also reveals how the image of women is transformed, according to whether they are in front of, or behind, the camera.

The artist uses these recontextualised photos to give the images a new existence, and subtly urge the spectator to reinterpret them. As a counterpoint to these representations of women, the artists has included a set of photos depicting objects related to psychology, vision, and the medium per se. Cassettes, files, and notepads explore more broadly the nature of photos, matters of perception and representation, the mechanics of the perception and portrayal of emotions. Through these different series, Collier submits a complex study of woman not only as object, subject, catalyst and cliché, but also as an aesthetic mirror of our societies, of our emotional and affective relationship to the image and the way we are conditioned by them.

Director: Véronique Souben