Photographic representation of lesbian identity with special reference to the Southern African context

Brundrit, Jean (2000-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis presents a discussion of a photographic representation of lesbian identity in Southern Africa. Two photographic series, Does your lifestyle depress your mother? and the Dyke Career Series (collectively referred to/exhibited as Lavender Menace) produced during the period 1997 to 1999 form the practical component of this MA submission. Lavender Menace is considered in relation to lesbian identity, lesbian social visibility, stereotypes and the relationship between photography and 'reality'. The various readings that the works can be said to have, are discussed and an explanation of the purpose in photographing the 'ordinariness' of the lesbians who were imaged, is included. A historical overview of the concepts 'lesbian', and 'visibility'specifically in South Africa during the last 50 years, and how homophobia has affected lesbian life is presented in Chapter One. In Chapter Two, the notion of stereotypes is examined, particularly those of the 'butch' lesbian and the 'lipstick' or 'chic' lesbian. Neither of these stereotypes is entirely accurate and the role of stereotypes in potentially disseminating mis-information and prejudice, and how this influences potential ways of identity construction, is discussed. It can be seen that this influence of stereotypes on lesbians and lesbian visual representation cannot be ignored as the dominant stereotypes in society are too pervasive. The notion of readability is explored in Chapter Three. The constructed nature of photography, specifically with regard to Lavender Menace, is discussed in relation to truth, theatricality, the use of text and possible readings of the work. An explanation of my particular purpose in choosing to photograph in the way I did is included, concluding that although meaning is not fixed, the intention of the artist can be visually presented in a 'legible' manner (if desired) to assist possible interpretations. This thesis/research has been utilised to inform my own artistic production, by exploring the questions and issues raised while producing Lavender Menace, namely lesbian visibility, the use of stereotypes and how images are interpreted. This thesis and Lavender Menace should contribute to the general research area by promoting social visibility of lesbians in South Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis bied 'n bespreking van 'n fotografiese voorstelling van lesbiese identiteit in Suid-Afrika. Die praktiese komponent van die voorlegging vir die Meestersgraad bestaan uit twee reekse fotos, Does your lifestyle depress your mother? en Dyke Career Series, wat in die periode vanaf 1997 tot 1999 geproduseer is (en gesamentlik as Lavender Menace uitgestal/beskou word). Lavender Menace word in verhouding tot lesbiese identitieit, lesbiese sosiale sigbaarheid, stereotipes en die verhouding tussen fotografie en 'werklikheid' beskou. Die verskillende lesings/beduidenisse wat die werk sou kon hê, word bespreek en 'n verduideliking van die doelstelling met die fotografering van die 'gewoonheid' van die lesbiese wat verbeeld is, word ingesluit. 'n Historiese oorsig van die konsepte 'lesbies' en 'sigbaarheid', veral in Suid-Afrika gedurende die afgelope 50 jaar, en hoe homofobie die lesbiese lewenswyse geaffekteer het, word in Hoofstuk Een aangebied. In Hoofstuk Twee word die idee van stereotipes ondersoek, veral die van die 'butch' en die 'lipstiffie-', of'sjiek' lesbiese vrou. Geeneen van hierdie stereotipes is geheel-en-al korrek nie en die rol van stereotipes in die potensiële verspreiding van verkeerde inligting en vooroordeel en hoe dit die potensiële wyses vir die konstruksie van identiteit affekteer, word bespreek. Daar word getoon dat die invloed van stereotipering op die lesbiese vrou en die lesbiese visuele voorstelling nie geïgnoreer kan word nie, aangesien die oorheersende stereotipes in die samelewing te deurdringend is. Die idee van leesbaarheid word in Hoofstuk Drie ondersoek. Die gekonstrueerde aard van fotografie, veral met betrekking tot Lavender Menace, word met betrekking tot die waarheid, die teatrale, die gebruik van teks en moontlike lesings/interpretasies van die werk bespreek. 'n Verduideliking van my besondere doelstelling met die keuse van hoé om te fotografeer word ingesluit, met die konklusie dat, alhoewel betekenis nie finaal vasgelê is nie, die bedoeling van die kunstenaar visueel op 'n 'leesbare' manier voorgestel kan word (indien dit verlang word) om moontlike interpretasies te ondersteun. Die tesis/navorsing is aangewend om my eie artistieke produksie in te lig deur die vrae en kwessies wat gedurende die produksie van Lavender Menace na vore gekom het, namens lesbiese sigbaarheid, die gebruik van stereotipes en hoe beelde geïnterpreteer word, te ondersoek. Hierdie tesis, tesame met Lavender Menace, behoort Inbydrae te lewer tot die navorsingveld in die algemeen deur die bevordering van die sosiale sigbaarheid van die lesbiese in Suid-Afrika.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/51873
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