“These girls – who belong to a generation fluent in selfies, tags on social media, and using iPhone cameras as mirrors – understand how to construct identity through images”
No matter how much I object politically or artistically to the rhetoric of commercial photography, I am seduced by its tricks—the ways it sweetens the body and the landscape, masks the unpleasant, and transforms beauty and desire into myth. From a young age, this kind of imagery taught me to suppress my desires, values, personality, and flaws. It’s an experience common to many women; we are shaped by ideologies of domination and control within contemporary commerce, projecting fantasies onto our bodies that are not our own.
Over the last year, I have been working with a group of girls between the ages of eleven and fourteen in my hometown in rural Pennsylvania, photographing and filming their reactions to their own image through a two-way mirror. These girls – who belong to a generation fluent in selfies, tags on social media, and using iPhone cameras as mirrors – understand how to construct identity through images. Nonetheless, the gulf between their appearance and the commercial imagery with which they are inundated remains vast. The portraits, made with a large-format 8×10 camera, capture the intricacies of self-presentation and highlight a young woman’s discomfort when she sees an image in the mirror that fails to live up to her desires.
Everywhere around me I see surfaces—skin, billboards, cake icing photographic prints—that project fantasies. My work aims to address the psychological space in which men and, in particular, women must balance the ever-present reality of imagery that is insistently, but seductively, unreal.
Spitting Image, Artist statement by Eva O’leary
All images are courtesy of Eva O’leary
Eva’s work was kindly suggested by Chiara Bardelli, photo editor at Vogue Italia @chiaranonino
To learn more about Eva’s work please visit: