Emma Bee Bernstein: Fetishism of Fashion and Vintage Self-portraits
This essay discusses the self-portraits of Emma Bee Bernstein as an instance of the “Crisis of the Real” that Andy Grundberg detected in contemporary photography (1999). Her creations have a transformative power very distant from the realistic vocation of the photographic medium. Emma Bernstein’s work shows a great fascination with vintage décor and discarded items which she adopts as costumes in the masquerades in which she involves her girlfriends. This aesthetic recalls the one originated from decaying Roman halls in Francesca Woodman’s self-portraits, in another dreamy adventure of a fugitive self. However, Emma Bernstein’s recovery of these objets trouvés is also an exploration of the progressive legacy of her family, in a body of work that critically confronts the commodified and disaffected surfaces of fashion shows that tend to neutralise the personal and feminist motives of her art.
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