The term offcut is often used to describe photographic material that is discarded during the post-production process. Offcuts are unwanted images (print or film) that are shot and then for one reason or another removed from view. It’s an apt title for a new body of work by British based photographer Eva Stenram that both repurposes discarded material and seeks to explore the relationship between photography and pornography and the viewer and the viewed.
Stenram often works with found photographic archives from the 1960s and 70s. In ‘Offcut’ she again repurposes vintage archives of amateur erotica where semi-clad women in high heels and stockings are artfully posed and draped across furniture, usually in domestic surroundings. In previous bodies of work (such as her earlier series ‘Drape’), she carefully reworks found images, removing or rather covering most of their bodies with cloned and repeated patterns of the folded fabrics and curtains that surround them. Often only a leg remains – a hint at the coquettish pose required of the subject. Sometimes only a hand or arm is left, disembodied on a 60s shag pile carpet. (think Eli Lotar’ famous photograph of 1929 of horses’ forelegs stacked outside a Parisien abattoir).
Fabric – the curtain, veil and drape –often played an important part in Stenram’s work and in Offcut this interest in veiling is further investigated. In Offcut, the fabrics seen in her found photographs are cloned and repeated and made into lengths of fabric that hang besides the original framed photographs. In ‘Vanishing Point (2016) a saturated colour image of a young woman with her checked shirt open to the navel hangs on the wall. The portrait is cropped to disguise the models identity and the most identifying factor in the image is the bold blue check of the model’s shirt. Beside this framed photograph, a long length of fabric hangs like a curtain and hangs from ceiling to floor. In ‘Split’ (2016) a low armchair is placed directly in front of a small photograph of a disembodied woman’s leg on a patterned sofa. The chair is placed in front of the photograph as an invitation to sit and view the image in the same way as the photographer must have stood or sat and taken the photograph itself. As you look at the photograph, you notice that the pattern on the drapes the model is sitting on has been lifted and repeated on the fabric that is now covering the chair. You touch the back of the chair, running your fingers along its back in the same way as the model must also have felt the fabric under her fingers 40 years ago. It brings you closer to the subject in a way that is both uncanny and uncomfortable.
These works, with their emphasis on touch and three-dimensional space, seem to foreshadow a new world where sexual fantasy plays out not through the image but through the more immersive spaces promised by virtual reality.
Also published on Medium.