Contextual Research | Jooney Woodward, Renaissance and Baroque

As my project continues to develop and following an intensive week professionally I find an element of calm in looking to photographs that offer some type of escapism. Looking at the work of Jooney Woodward offers a sense of hope regarding my own practice as she makes portraits that cause me to be excited about my own practice. Whether it be the posing or gestures that subjects make, I enjoy photography that is considered in terms of intent, but most important to me is the enjoyment I take. Pre MA I found huge enjoyment in looking at the work of Rodney Smith and still do. In a personal sense, I remember the enjoyment I took from looking at Smith’s work and now I can add the work of Woodward to that list.

In response to the question of taking enjoyment from the work of others, I feel compelled to ask myself why I am drawn to such work. A complex question of which I don’t thin there is a single answer.

Iris Apfel | By Jooney Woodward

The photograph of Iris Apfel by Woodward is an example of her work that I admire. The multiple elements of detail, the contrasting textures in her clothes and jewellery serve to produce a sense of difference, a juxtaposition between old and new, or the traditional and progressive. Coupled with her spectacles, I sense that Apfel is an interesting individual, progressive in her lifestyle. Someone who has moved with the times. The colour and texture of the light green sofa creates a strong contrast with dark ruby and orange of her coat. I could address elements such as the lips and hair which lend themselves to a sense of glamour and beauty not lost with age.  Risch (2018) comments Jooney Woodward draws inspiration for her portraiture from Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and says her work is “quite static and composed compared to more reportage-y photographers.” As a result, I felt that if I was interested in this type of work I needed to work harder to understand the cornerstones and rules that I should be aware of. When Risch cites Woodward commenting about taking inspiration from Renaissance and Baroque paintings I felt that this was a good starting point. Mittendorf (2017) comments “A good word for Renaissance art is “stabilize,” while a good one for the Baroque is “dramatize.” Going back to Woodward’s photograph of Apfel and with Mittendorf’s opening comments in mind, my attention is drawn to the Apfel’s left hand being raised with her fingers slightly closed. Here is where I see drama in the image, the gesture encompasses a type of symbolic sophistication and dexterity that aligns with her profession of an interior designer. As Barthes (1958) in his essay argues ‘Steak and Chips’ makes assumptions about nationalism, masculinity, loyalty and status. In Woodward’s photograph, she makes statements about creativity, innovation, talent and sophistication. The finishing touch to the photograph being the raising of the left hand. A small element that has a huge impact.

Mittendorf makes the distinction between Baroque and Renaissance paintings being, the use of vertical and horizontal lines to create a sense of stability in Renaissance work as opposed to angular lines in Baroque paintings. Here you can clearly see a range of angular lines at play here. The angular lines created by the green sofa in addition to the triangular shape of Apfel’s right arm in almost a binary opposite of colour and angle. Going back to the left arm which is raised almost vertically but not quite. To me this represents a common theme with successful people. Almost a metaphor of someone that mostly adheres to the rules however the slight angle represents a personal voice, the sense of individuality which one may need to get to the top of one’s profession. Going back to Risch (2018) and comments about Woodward’s artistic style have helped inform my own intentions going forward. Whether I am able to achieve this level of detail going forward is yet unknown however in scrutinising Woodward’s beautiful image I feel that a roadmap to producing stronger work is a little more visible.

Barthes, R. (1958) Mythologies. Vantage, London.

Mittendorf (2017) [Online] Available at: [Accessed] 3rd May 2021.

Risch, C. (2018) Photo District News [Online] Available at: [Accessed] 3rd May 2021.

Woodward, J. (2021) Jooney Woodward [Online] Available at: [Accessed] 3rd May 2021.

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