In Issue 5 of Photoworks Val Williams looked at Anna Fox's series Pictures of Linda.
Anna Fox has been active as a photographer since 1986. Her work first came to critical attention with Workstations (1986-1988), a chronicle of London office life in the Thatcher years. These photographs, which described the strange comedy and ritual of everyday life in the workplace, marked Fox out as a teller of stories, an observer of gesture and expression and a wry satirist of our various vanities.
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Anna Fox began making photographs at a time when the new British Colour Documentarists (notably Paul Graham, Martin Parr and Paul Reas) had begun to make an important contribution to visual culture in the UK and internationally. In her series Workstations, The Village (1991-1993) and Friendly Fire (1988-1991), Fox began to construct narratives around the extraordinary nature of the everyday.
Though Fox was seen, during the late Eighties and early Nineties, as very much a part of this predominantly male, predominantly documentary movement, she soon gravitated toward the telling of more intimate, personal stories. The Village was a coruscating fable on the elderly, middle class Sussex community where her grandmother lived, Workstations was inspired by her own pre-college life as an office worker and Friendly Fire (an investigation of weekend wargames) was very much to do with changes in the semi rural hinterlands of the South of England.
Much of Fox’s recent work relates to the friendship groups which she made while photographing embryonic punk bands in and around the Hampshire town of Alton. She was (and is) fascinated by small town life, that combination of emptiness and security which so distinguishes life in such English settlements. At this time, two major series began: Country Girls (1996-2001) made in collaboration with Alison Goldfrapp and Pictures of Linda (1983-2002). Both series explore the possibilities inherent in collaboration, both have a remarkable combination of gleefulness and menace. Pictures of Linda, a long-term study of a close friend and former band member, explores the possibilities of disguise, fantasy and costume, as Linda remakes herself constantly for the camera. She is alternately vamp, party girl, film star, hooded princess, harridan. Over the two decades in which Fox has photographed Linda, we see the changes from punk beauty to screaming exhibitionist, as Linda confronts her own particular demons.
Anna Fox has always been interested in photographing women’s lives, from the charity collecting women of The Village to the consummate performers Alison and Linda. The stories she weaves around the lives of the women she photographs have the qualities of fairy stories-full of pitfalls for the unwary, promises made, kept and broken, journeys from a kind of innocence to experience.
Published in Photoworks Issue 5, 2005
Commissioned by Photoworks