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Ex – washing up

You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?
In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?
What does this series achieve by not including people?
Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

(OCA C&N, p87)

Nigel Shafran’s work, washing-up,  can be viewed on his website.

I felt no surprise this was taken by a man as I live in a culture and generation where a man’s place as often as a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Though I can image contemporaries from different cultures would find it surprising. If we travelled back into UK history, I imagine a time when it may have been surprising.

I mentioned above gender in the context of culture and time (insofar as culture evolves over time). Where photographers follow or echo the gender stereotypes within their cultures, there could be some influence of  gender on the subjects selected for images. But a stereotype is a generalisation so there can be no definite ‘yes/no’ answer, but rather ‘it depends’. For example, it is perhaps more likely that male over female gender photographers would sit by the edge of a football pitch and photograph a match.

As the series excludes people, it is easier for us to place ourselves or others into the scene. It could be my washing up, it could be my children’s washing up, my wife’s washing up, or a stranger’s washing up. The absence of a person broadens the possibilities for interpretation and allows the mind space to imagine.

In a ‘spot-the-difference’ way or as an observation of what is happening in someone’s kitchen , I find the images interesting. However in terms of shape and form the content of the images is hard on the eye – random and without pattern or rhythm. There is something self-indulgent about putting this on display – a little like a 10 minute guitar solo that would be better kept as a personal exercise. I would not put this work up on my walls.


Nigel Shafran [website] Washing-up. Available from: http://nigelshafran.com/category/washing-up-2000-2000/ [accessed 2.3.16]

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