I found this book highly disturbing, for a few reasons. It’s an art book but I felt as though this artist was creating her autobiography through her photographs. I am not at all surprised she committed suicide less than a decade into her career, which started at age thirteen, and it’s very sad that she died at the young age of twenty-two. Most of her photographs are various versions of self-portraits and I felt upset looking at many of them because I could only imagine that she’d been in emotional pain because that’s what many of the photos seemed to express. She does show a sense of humor and seeing that in her work was a pleasure. What I found most uncomfortable about is contemplating whether nude photos of a thirteen year old girl and other nude and often self mutilating photos of the next few years of her life constitutes child pornography, even though she was the artist and apparently chose to make her work public. I have to say that most of the photographs are extremely creative and very unusual, and I think that many are beautiful.
The book contains essays about art, the art and artist, a note by her father, another by a best friend, and some of her journal entries, which were simultaneously boring and mildly interesting. The photographic work is presented in chronological order. For me the photographs told the story the best and were my favorite part of the book, albeit distressing at times.
Reading and looking at this book left me feeling sad and a bit confused, but I have to say some of the photos will stick with me, probably because they’re so personal and so unusual. If art is supposed to make the viewer think, Woodman’s photographs certainly succeed.