Another side of the picture: Looking differently at Claude Cahun
This essay is a contribution to the first major publication in English devoted to the work of Claude Cahun and her partner Marcel Moore, based on the archives of The Jersey Heritage Trust. My essay goes beyond the usual approach to Cahun’s work which has concentrated on notions of masquerade and femininity, almost to the exclusion of other aspects of her work, especially its historical and cultural significance at the time it was produced (mainly 1920s-40s). Based on archival research in Jersey, a private archive in Sussex, and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris, this research forms part of a larger project (AHRC and British Academy small-grant funded) which has resulted in the first single-author book in English devoted to Cahun (Claude Cahun: A Sensual Politics of Photography, I.B. Tauris, December 2007)devoted to exploring aspects of Cahun’s work which have received little attention as yet. e.g. Her political views in relation to her photographic work, notions of femininity and the domestic, her avant-garde work and its relation to mass-media images of women in the inter-war period (eg.Vogue, Votre Beauté), self-fashioning, femininity and class in the 1920s-40s, and her photographs in relation to psychoanalytic theories of femininity, identity, masquerade and camouflage. Both archival and printed sources have been used, as well as interviews conducted in Jersey. In selecting concepts with which to approach Cahun’s photographic imagery, I have, as far as possible, used theories with which she herself was in sympathy (e.g. the writings of Freud, Marx and Trotsky), or whose proponents she actually knew (e.g. Roger Caillois and Jacques Lacan). This essay (and the larger research project of which it is a part) should contribute to a more rounded appraisal of Cahun’s achievements in relation to photographic history, women’s and lesbian studies, and cultural politics.
Citation : DOY, M.G (2006) Another Side of the Picture: Looking Differently at Claude Cahun. In: DOWNIE, L. ed. Don't kiss me : the art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. New York: Aperture Foundation, pp. 72-82.
ISBN : 978-1-85437-679-4
Research Group : Photographic Studies and Creative Imaging
- School of Arts