Photography: Jessica Ledwich
Melbourne photographer Jessica Ledwich previously worked as a fashion photographer, but she found it constraining and now concentrates on her fine art photography. In her series - The Monstrous Feminine, Jessica confronts the extremes women will go to in the pursuit of beauty. Inspired by a Julia Kristeva essay that looked at the role of women as portrayed in horror films, it got her thinking about the monstrous things women do to themselves. Her works are starkly dramatic and powerful, pulling no punches – she gets in our face with the absurd realities of “beauty” rituals. Often surreal in their placement and presentation, they hammer home the grotesque behind the image. Jessica acts as her own model, applies her own special effects, does her own taxidermy, styles her own sets and keeps digital manipulation to a minimum.
”I was always sort of too conceptually driven for commercial stuff… I used to do quite a few model portfolios but it’s not creatively fulfilling in that sense, not when you have a desire to actually deconstruct what it is you’re looking at. My work has always been content driven. I always found myself wanting to bring in something to give it an edge. Commercial clients always got a little nervous with that. I was always more interested in subverting the image and generating a dialogue rather than merely representing it.”
”When I started thinking about it I was like – Wow, there’s really no shortage of bizarre things we do… And in saying this, the work is very much about holding up a mirror – I participate, I put on make-up, all this sort of stuff… Like most women, I spent a lot of time reading fashion magazines as a young girl and was acutely aware of this sense of women’s sexuality being something that was scary, uncomfortable and somewhat threatening. I was also aware of this strong sense of fear surrounding the idea of ageing. That ageing is something everyone must avoid at all costs. It’s not intended as some sort of feminist rant – It’s about asking if all of these things have become so mainstream that we don’t even think twice about it.”
Jessica has a number of other beautifully strange and powerful works on her website (here), which should not be ignored. Full of red meat sculptures, delicate taxidermy and injured wildlife – they run the gamut of addressing the eclectic horrors of factory farming, polytheism and environmental destruction.