The Performance of Womanhood

Student Author(s)

Carolyn Ellis

Faculty Mentor(s)

Professor Steve Nelson, Department of Photography

Document Type


Event Date



Womanhood is universal, yet uniquely expressed by each individual. Feminist movements span across history as woman continually explore what it means to be a woman both past and present day. Art has become a medium of expressing the experience that is womanhood, especially that of female photographers. Inspired by the medium of performance photography featured in the Winter 2015 Aperture 211 magazine, the research became centered around the performance that is womanhood. Performance photography began with Hippolyte Bayard’s Le Noyé (Self-portrait as a drowned man) in 1840 and has long inspired artists to perform both in front of the camera and behind it. Performance photography explores the intentional and unintentional blurring of the line between photography of the performance and performative photography. Womanhood is explored by researching such performative artists such as Helena Almeida who draws and paints both in and on her photographs. A portfolio of photographs were created based off of the research and were digitized into a website that explores how womanhood becomes its own entity and transforms what is a performance itself; in all of its rituals, details, irony, and juxtapositions.


This project was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts & Humanities at Hope College.

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