Second Selves: Francesca Woodman, Ralph Meatyard, Bear Allison
The crisis of photography has a specific relation to the self and to the face, as the photograph, via social media, has come to elide the actual face, standing for the self while the embodied self retreats. In the photography of Francesca Woodman, Ralph Meatyard, and John Bear Allison, in their mask-based works, however, the self is not eroded by photography but has been uncannily set aslant or askew. The mask emerges as the image of a liminal self—the self between adolescence and adulthood in Woodman’s work, the self between life and death in Meatyard’s work, and the self becoming a decolonized subject in Allison’s work. The transformation effected by the mask is held in these uncanny photographs as always incomplete: that is, photography’s temporal eddy, which never completes the action it initiates, drawing the viewer into an uncanny liminality. Through Woodman, Meatyard, and Allison’s photographs as masks, we, the viewers, are transformed. In these images of late twentieth and early twenty-first-century America, we see its places haunted by differences that refuse to disappear. This chapter’s focus on Francesca Woodman, Ralph Meatyard and Bear Allison explores the eerie convergences between the mask and the photograph.