Two books share versions of the same photographs. 8 1/2 Women is a limited edition artist book bound in a blank red plastic cover, bound in the style of a script. It is a rarer, more secondary book, than 8 Women. It is 8 1/2 Women that I write mostly about: an entire photocopy bootleg of the source material, including photographic contact sheets and multiple croppings, that lie behind the final cut: 8 Women by Collier Schorr. An American photographer, Schorr published both books this year in conjunction with her 303 Gallery exhibition, “8 Women”.


Untitled image from 8 1/2 Women

I am flipping through the pages fast; scanning, trying to recognize someone in 8 1/2 Women. Looking fast, at that musician, at that artist. At a woman from my favorite advertisement. A Robert Mapplethorpe look-alike. A rendering of an actress. Bodies are isolated on pages, and men and women are looking back at the camera. 8 1/2 Women is a lot longer than 8 Women and offers the possibility of being rapidly consumed – one page catches my eye and I stop. It is a photograph that is itself a frozen-motion embodiment of flipping: of feet cascading back into the air, of a person falling away from the camera. A girl, a boy, a person upside-down.


Untitled image from 8 1/2 Women

We are seeing the same thing over and over, at close range: a torso. There is no head attached to the torso. It is a photocopied stomach and chest in 8 1/2 Women. There are three images of this torso: the first version is a black and white photocopy of a color photograph. It shows a torso wearing a nipple ring. And in the second photocopy, a solarized torso displays a neck tattoo, negative and positive values inverted. The last picture has the most contrast. Heavy grain of the copier turns scattered freckles the darkest, this photocopy the grainiest and showing only a hint of the neck tattoo. It is this tattoo that connects the torso to a real person, its language and handwriting, the swoop of the last letter: famous, Freja Beha Erichsen is one of Collier Schorr’s repeated subjects, and she is notoriously tattooed.


Untitled image in 8 1/2 Women

She is a supposedly difficult model to photograph. She is often more in control than the photographer. Freja Beha Erichsen is aware of the ways “Freja” should not look, what she would not do, how she would not sit, how she would not be, in an advertisement. In both 8 Women and 8 1/2 Women, Collier photographs the model just before or after a Chanel fashion shoot took place. She catches the model slightly out of character, before her characteristic nipple ring is re-inserted, as the ring does not exist in the advertisement photograph. This portrait is a before-and-after shot. This and most of Collier’s portraits are before-and-afters, picturing bodies at odds, as these bodies prepare to become their image, which might or might not be synonymous with becoming themselves. Many look alone on a stage.


Camera Work, 2013, from 8 Women

The girls, women, boys and almost never men, that Collier photographs are for the most part, good-looking. Sometimes they are nude. Some are professionally confirmed as beautiful; they are models. And some look a little bit like Collier. At least six self-portraits exist in 8 1/2 Women, nearing 200 pages. Picture after picture builds a catalogue of repeated subjects. One self-portrait appears in both 8 Women and 8 1/2 Women called “Self-Portrait (Mimic)”. In the photograph, Collier sits in a chair, and a woman stands behind, pulling the creases of Collier’s eyes backward towards her ears. Is she trying to look like a photograph of herself? Like a photograph of someone else? More likely, she is reconciling herself with a stranger. Reconciling with a photograph of a stranger wherein she recognized something of herself.


Self-Portrait (Mimic), 1996, from 8 Women


Untitled image from 8 1/2 Women

We are getting closer and closer and closer. To what? To a person sitting in a chair. No. To a v-neck white short sleeved t-shirt. Not exactly. To the v-neck itself, the stitched white cloth V. Still no. To a freckle, slightly left of and below a nipple, visible through a white v-neck short sleeved t-shirt adorning a person sitting in a chair. Adorning a man or a woman? Undetermined, I am looking at a person in a series of three photographs, each image cropped tighter than the last. The person’s arm rests over the back of the chair. At its most liberal view, the camera crops the head nearly out of the frame, except for an unexpressive mouth. Claustrophobic crops serve to make us closer.


Untitled image from 8 1/2 Women

Without photographs, are there fantasies? I am looking at a collage. Well, mostly a drawing, of Nicole Kidman. When she had short hair. The edge of the drawing contains a snippet of a photograph, a section of skin collaged into the pencil-drawn neck. The photographic snippet might or might not be from a photograph of Kidman’s neck. Maybe the skin is taken from a photograph of someone Collier knows, or maybe cut from a body in a magazine. The occasional drawings that appear in 8 1/2 Women and 8 Women are drawings from photographs, by a photographer, of women initially encountered as photographic images, consumed over and over as photographs, who are more likely to be mistaken on the street for no one, than to be mistaken in a photograph.


N.K., 2013, from 8 Women



Erin Leland
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