I am always surprised at all the things people read into my photos, but it also amuse me. That may be because I have nothing specific in mind when I'm working. My intentions are neither feminist nor political. I try to put double or multible meanings into my photos, which might give rise to a greater variety of interpretations...
I didn’t think of what I was doing as political. To me it was a way to make the best out of what I liked to do privately, which was to dress up.
I'll see a photograph of a character and try to copy them on to my face. I think I'm really observant, and thinking how a person is put together, seeing them on the street and noticing subtle things about them that make them who they are.
If I knew what the picture was going to be like, I wouldn’t make it. It was almost like it was made already... the challenge is more about trying to make what you can’t think of.
When I’m cooking, I’m just following a recipe—I’m being told what to do. When I’m working on my photographs I have to make up my own sort of rules. Sometimes I have a vision of what I want but mostly I’m guided by what I don’t want.
Once I set up, the camera starts clicking, then I just start to move and watch how I move in the mirror. It’s not like I’m method acting or anything. I don’t feel that I am that person. I may be thinking about a certain story or situation, but I don’t become her. There’s this distance. The image in the mirror becomes her—the image the camera gets on the film. And the one thing I’ve always known is that the camera lies.
People are always trying to find the next groovy thing, and it hasn’t gone back to painting... I’d like it to go back to painting. I’m sick of all this photography and video. There’s so much of it, it’s almost annoying.
[My work is] maybe about me maybe not wanting to be me and wanting to be all these other characters. Or at least try them on.
When I was in school I was getting disgusted with the attitude of art being so religious or sacred, so I wanted to make something which people could relate to without having read a book about it first. So that anybody off the street could appreciate it, even if they couldn’t fully understand it, they could still get something out of it. That’s the reason I wanted to imitate something out of the culture, and also make fun of the culture as I was doing it.
It has nothing to do with me. I work with myself, that’s my material somehow, but the finished photograph has more to offer than reflections of my “personality”... My photographs are certainly not self-portraits or representations of myself, though unfortunately people always keep saying they are.
In horror stories or in fairy tales, the fascination with the morbid is also, at least for me, a way to prepare for the unthinkable... That’s why it’s very important for me to show the artificiality of it all, because the real horrors of the world are unmatchable, and they’re too profound.
....I didn’t really have ideas of what I wanted to do with painting. That was when I thought, “Why am I wasting my time elaborately copying things when I could use a camera?”
I want that choked-up feeling in your throat which maybe comes from despair or teary-eyed sentimentality: conveying intangible emotions.
The work is what it is and hopefully it’s seen as feminist work, or feminist-informed work, but I’m not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff.
I didn’t set out to establish an alternative. No one really did—expectations were a lot lower than you see with people coming out of art schools today. I did want to do something different; I was bored by what was going on in art and particularly in painting, but I didn’t think I was actually going to make a difference. We all would have been happy just to have a show somewhere.
I have this enormous fear of being misinterpreted, of people thinking that the photographs are about me, that I’m really vain and narcissistic. Then sometimes I wonder how it is I’m fooling so many people. I’m doing one of the most stupid things in the world which I can’t even explain, dressing up like a child and posing in front of a camera trying to make beautiful pictures. And people seem to fall for it.
I think that the way these pictures come through me is mostly intuitive—unless I have something specific in mind, like with the sex pictures; I definitely had ideas of what each one was about. But I don’t title them. I’m not going to thrust the issues in my work into people’s faces with words.
I’ve had to learn more and more techniques. I’ve never felt while I was creating a series that I was limited by my technique, but afterward I have seen that I wanted to create something that I couldn’t.
I think my work has often been about how women are portrayed in the media, and of course you don’t actually see that many portraits of older women or old women in fashion and film. So that’s part of it.
It’s the one face you look at every day your whole life. But of course you are looking at yourself in reverse so you never actually know what you look like. Photography can be similar. I remember an early boyfriend. I thought: he is just so handsome, and I would show a picture to somebody and they would not see it at all. In a still photo you only sometimes get the essence of a person. I have always been fascinated by why that happens.
I didn't think of what I was doing as political. To me it was a way to make the best out of what I liked to do privately, which was to dress up.
People assume that a self-portrait is narcissistic and you're trying to reveal something about yourself: fantasies or autobiographical information. In fact, none of my work is about me or my private life.
Everyone thinks [my photographs] are self-portraits, but they are not meant to be If I photograph myself it's because I can push my own limits to the extreme.
Some people have told me they remember the film that one of my images is derived from, but in fact I had no film in mind at all.
I like the idea that people who don’t know anything about art can look at [my art] and appreciate it without having to know the history of photography and painting.
If I knew what the picture was going to be like I wouldn’t make it. It was almost like it was made already... the challenge is more about trying to make what you can’t think of.
I didn’t care much about the print quality. The photographs were supposed to look like they cost fifty cents.
The role-playing was intended to make people become aware of how stupid roles are, a lot of roles, but it’s not all that serious, perhaps that’s more the moral of it, not to take anything too seriously.
Everyone thinks [that my photographs] are self-portraits, but they are not meant to be. If I photograph myself it’s because I can push my own limits to the extreme. I can make from each shot a work as heavy, as clumsy or as stupid as I want.
Truthfully, I’m a little sick of these pictures [the Untitled Film Stills]—it’s hard for me to get excited about them anymore. It’s funny to see some of them now. Throughout my life, I’ve tried to keep looking different, so my hair has been all different colors, all lengths and styles. As a result, a lot of these characters look like me in the periods of my life since I shot the Film Stills... Occasionally I’ve felt that as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to look more like some of them. It’s kind of scary—I was always trying to look like older women.
I think of becoming a different person. I look into a mirror next to the camera... it’s trancelike. By staring into it I try to become that character through the lens... When I see what I want, my intuition takes over.
I would read theoretical stuff about my work and think, “What? Where did they get that?” The work was so intuitive for me, I didn’t know where it was coming from. So I thought I had better not say anything or I’d blow it.
When I prepare each character I have to consider what I’m working against; that people are going to look under the make-up and wigs for that common denominator, the recognizable. I’m trying to make people recognize something of themselves rather than me.
To pick a character like that was about my own ambivalence about sexuality—growing up with the women role models that I had, and a lot of them in films, that were like that character, and yet you were supposed to be a good girl.
When I’m cooking, I’m just following a recipe—I’m being told what to do. When I’m working on my photographs I have to make up my own sort of rules. Sometimes I have a vision of what I want but mostly I’m guided by what I don’t want. I’m happy to make mistakes; making photos is more like playing than cooking is. I wouldn’t want to eat what I made just playing with cooking ingredients, but sometimes the mistakes in the photos are better than what I had in mind.
I’ve just started to learn how to do things on the computer, like taking somebody’s head off and putting it on top of someone else's body. Little operations like head transplants. Using the computer can be like drawing or typing—an obsessive action that you do with your hands. I’d been thinking of it as a way to fix technical mistakes.
I want there to be hints of narrative everywhere in the image so that people can make up their own stories about them. But I don’t want to have my own narrative and force it on to them. And it shouldn’t seem so real that it looks like it was shot in a studio today. I want it to transcend time somehow.