Portrait of a man seated in a garden

Published by Paula Bray January 2, 2010 Photo of the day.

Powerhouse Museum – Sydney

    Portrait of a man seated in a garden

    Or is it? A closer look (and a comparison with some other photographs in this collection) reveals that this is actually an image of a woman dressed as a man, one of the many staged photographs in the Phillips collection. The woman’s hair is carefully pulled up under her bowler hat and her moustache is a hastily arranged piece of wool or string. Props such as the pipe, newspaper and a jaunty flower in the buttonhole all serve to enhance the illusion.

    Masquerade in photography, as practised by contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman, has a long history. From its earliest days, the medium of photography’s problematic relationship to the real and its potential for deception, or the camera’s ‘lie’, has been exploited. French photographer, Claude Cahun (Wikipedia), was one early twentieth century artist whose work also explored the possibilities of the photograph as a performance space.

    Although the circumstances of production are unknown, is likely that some of the Phillips collection photographs were produced for the entertainment of the family and their friends rather than for a wider audience. The makeshift background, which covers some, but not all, of the brick wall behind, suggests that this image was not produced for commercial purposes.

No known copyright restrictions
Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian

    © Copyright Powerhouse Museum


Stampfli & Turci – Art Dealers

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~ by Stampfli & Turci on January 29, 2010.

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