Projects Women I've Shot

The Graveyard Girls, 2007

I worked on this small body of work during 2007. I had intended for it to become a larger body of images but got distracted by  more and more of my commercial work. I exhibited the final three images in the KWV Cathedral during the Cultivaria Festival of 2007. The rest of the negatives were archived, hopefully for future use.

Here is a collection of the images mostly in the working stages and includes pictures from my working diaries, contact sheets, notes and the stencils used for the body marking.

A detail from my visual diary of that time shows planning notes and research along with inspirational images from graveyards I shot in Mozambique in 2004.
A detail from my working diary of that time shows planning notes and research along with reference images from graveyards I shot in Mozambique in 2004.

I was working with the “Widow” concept, utilising graveyards around the Cape Peninsular. I’m drawn to these spaces. They represent a continuation of identity in our after-life. I find the details, often worn with time, like our memories, to be beautiful and I have an unexplainable attachment to multiples.

I incorporated items from my collection: vintage veiled hats, gloves, hand mirrors, suspenders, heels, stockings and strong body language along with texts, stencilled in gothic fonts to my subjects bodies.




Cape Town has some very beautiful graveyards including the sailors graveyards in Seaforth and Dido Valley and the closed off (Victorian?) Graveyard below Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory. Many of the sailors graves are inscribed ‘unknown sailor’.


I worked with women I had shot before mostly, some friends, some previous models from commercial shoots. I hand cut the ‘tattoos’ or body texts I had chosen for each image, including: Revere, Deference, My Carnal Avarice, Chastity and “Those are pearls that were his eyes” -a segment of Ariels song from The Tempest :

Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

The permanence which comes with tattooing or scaring the body is connected here to the potency of feeling loss which remains inside the body invisibly but forever. The words represent the inward tensions connected to loss but also tied to how society has created regulations for behaviour in such contexts, how even the behaviour of despair/grief/loss has become stereotyped and stigmatised. In the images I am placing a juxtaposition between the words used on the woman’s bodies and the context in which they reside.






Heidi Erdmann, of The Photographers Gallery, added these words to the catalogue published alongside the images  for the Cultivaria Festival:

The curatorial concept and theme for this exhibition is the BODY and it is discussed along two axes, Public/Private and Cruel/Tender.
Through the photographs on the exhibition the viewer will witness the collision of self-image versus private desire, historical forces versus contemporary syndrome all represented with both humour and pathos…the work illustrates how over time the human BODY has remained one of the most photographed and pictorial objects in the world.


The images were all shot on my Mamiya twin lens medium format camera; all on B&W film. The negs, once I’d processed and contact printed for selection, were drum scanned and then hand coloured through Photoshop, painstakingly, using very feathered selected areas which were bit by bit, layer by layer, coloured using the photo filter tool (Image> Adjustments>Photo filter) at varying opacities and colour grades.
The process yields a look much like old original hand coloured B&W images, the ones most people remember seeing in photo history books or girlie postcards. The detail and colouring is best seen in the original exhibition prints which were printed 82cm x 82cm on Hahnemülle paper.



The often misty surrounds were created by using kiddies smoke bombs (lit inside an old can, they smoke for about 20 seconds, in varying brilliant colours and then disperse, subtly, around quite a big area, depending on the wind).

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