A Certain Kind of Girl


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We are repeatedly put in our place, told how to present ourselves, and instructed to keep our voices down.

A Certain Kind of Fool

There is also immense pressure on women to perform for the public. As a young girl, my mother provided guidance on how a woman should conduct herself. I then spent my early years hidden beneath those well-intentioned disguises. As instructed, I always made sure I appeared happy and complacent, the way I was taught a woman should act and in turn, I concealed much of my personality.

I gladly accepted these parameters hoping that I would be desirable to society, and thus happier with myself. Yet, I discovered an intense weariness that consumed me after years of putting on disguises each day, trying to make myself perfect, likable. It is exhausting to peel yourself open like an onion only to discover how fragile and meaningless significant parts of your existence have been.

My research examines the internal conflicts inherent in notions of femininity and the performative nature of the feminine.

The Producers - Certain Kinda Girl (1981)

This philosophical, intellectual, and emotional exploration has culminated in a collection of photographs that address notions of learned feminine identity, and the way in which women present themselves to the world. My photographs begin with a blank canvas, and then elements are added within the frame. Societal pressures have often left me without a sense of autonomy, but constructing these images has allowed me to reclaim my sense of agency.

The resulting photographs are simultaneously striking and discomforting. Through the use of self-portraiture, a "hall of mirrors" effect takes hold, making it difficult to distinguish between truth and illusion, as I am both subject and maker.

Emily Wiethorn: A Certain Kind Of Woman

By confronting the disguises that have become part of my feminine identity, I am exposing and scrutinizing my secrets. I experience a powerful reclamation when working alone — I confront the viewer, the camera, and ultimately myself in an attempt to uncover and assert my identity underneath years of impersonations. I am a conflicted construct of both the rejection and acceptance of society's definition of femininity.

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Hidden behind expected social roles, our inner identity can become lost. Through this work, I have explored what happens when our masks become so convincing that we no longer recognize ourselves.

Flat, even lighting techniques historically used in fashion and commercial photography cause the fabric patterns of various surfaces to blend seamlessly together, creating a kind of camouflage. This treatment echoes my own experience growing up. I often wanted to blend in, and only now do I understand the impact that an imposed silence has on women.

A Certain Kind of Woman | For Freedoms

Her influence is paramount to my understanding of feminine identity, and thus she is intertwined with each image in both obvious and subtle ways. Many women take on the role of decorator within their home, and my mother was no exception. Ingrained in my memory are meticulously decorated rooms filled with pastel colors and floral embellishments that declared our home a comfortable and inviting space for women.

It was as if I believe all of these ornate floral patterns made her feel like our home was inviting and picturesque; that if she could present the perfect facade everything else in our lives would fall into place. Her understanding of feminine identity comes from an era that she never experienced firsthand. Thus, even my sense of femininity is stuck in another decade as a result.


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This struggle reveals itself through the collision of the sentimental and the unpleasant within the intimate space of my images. Hidden behind expected social roles, our inner identity can become lost. Through my work, I explore what happens when our masks become so convincing that we no longer recognize ourselves. By creating garments and photographing in the studio, I experience a powerful reclamation. I confront the viewer, the camera, and myself in an attempt to uncover and assert my inner identity underneath years of impersonations.

You and Your Game Attract a Certain Kind of Girl

Load more. Emily Wiethorn b. Through her work, she explores notions of feminine identity, societal constructs of femininity, and self-discovery.

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