David Goldblatt – Shop assistant, Orlando West, Soweto, 1972
I recently visited the retrospective of the South African photographer David Goldblatt at Paris Centre Pompidou. A large number of black and white photographs from the apartheid era were presented along with a selection of recent color pictures of the country. A number of videos were also displayed, showing interviews of the photographer explaining his work. A fascinating and necessary testimony of South African history.
“When you look at someone and that person looks at you, there is a commitment.” – David Goldblatt
When I got out, I started wandering along the museum bookstore displays, I came upon this book. On the cover, a young woman in a blue worker’s outfit gives me a look pulling safety glasses up her head covered with a cap… “Dress like a woman” it says. I am hooked. “Working women and what they wore” explains the subtitle. I see that the foreword is by Roxanne Gay. Inside, photographs of women from all backgrounds, from our past to nowadays, serious or smiling, dressed up or comfortable. Professional.
On the women subject, I also listened to the French podcast “Sois gentille, dis merci, fais un bisou” [“Be nice, say thank you, give a kiss”]. In this podcast, Clémence Bodoc, a journalist for Madmoizelle.com, interviews “former” nice and quiet girls who decided one day to do what their life into their own hands. One of them is the film maker Eleonore Pourriat. She made the well know short film Oppressed Majority in 2010, in which she reversed men and women roles. After some time, it got so much hits on YouTube that Netflix noticed it… and ended up producing their very first French movie directed by Eleonore Pourriat : I am not an easy man. Once again she reverses our society’s patriarchal codes and plunges the main character (Vincent Elbaz) into a matriarchal system.
I have often found, when I happened to watch videos reversing those codes, that something was off. I could never quite buy these stories. Until today. Every cultural detail of our society has been carefully analyzed, deconstructed and turned upside down. The result is simply remarkable. Eleonore Pourriat denounces ordinary sexism with amazing efficiency… and a lot of humour !
“Imagine a world where women dress up for me, where I’m the one complimenting them ! _ Hugh, what a dreadful idea !” – Conversation between Vincent Elbaz and Blanche Gardin, lead actors in I Am Not an Easy Man