Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden by Carol Mavor
With drama, wit, and verve, Lady Hawarden's girls, becoming women, entwine each other, their mirrored reflections and select feminine objects (an Indian traveling cabinet, a Gothic-style desk, a shell-covered box) as homoerotic partners. The resulting mise-en-scene is secretive, private, delicious, and arguably queer-a girltopia ripe with maternality and adolescent flirtation, as touching as it is erotic. Luxuriating in the photographs' interpretive possibilities, Mavor makes illuminating connections between Hawarden and other artists and writers, including Vermeer, Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, and twentieth-century photographers Sally Mann and Francesca Woodman. Weaving psychoanalytic theory and other photographic analyses into her work, Mavor contemplates the experience of the photograph and considers the relationship of Hawarden's works to the concept of the female fetish, to voyeurism, mirrors and lenses, and twins and doubling. Under the spell of Roland Barthes, Mavor's voice unveils the peculiarities of the erotic in Lady Hawarden's images through a writerly approach that remembers and rewrites adolescence as sustained desire.
In turn autobiographical, theoretical, historical, and analytical, Mavor's study caresses these mysteriously ripped and scissored images into fables of sapphic love and the real magic of photography.