'I’m interested in depicting different manifestations of photographic imagery: how photography is employed in relation to everyday objects such as magazines, record sleeves, posters, etc., and how these mass-circulated things can absorb - and illuminate - our own narratives. I don’t really think of my work as a form of appropriation, as the original nature of the things I document remains largely evident in my photographs. ' A. Collier
Set squarely upon a neutral black background, a vintage photography manual bristles with Post-It notes. Its cover gleams with the promise of technical apparatus: camera, lenses, flash and film are arranged in an attractive still life, and the title Photography is emblazoned confidently above. Working with objects she discovers at flea markets or on eBay, Anne Collier stages subtle critiques of the photographic image, particularly its role as an extension of the male gaze and its foundational importance to popular culture at large. The present work presents the photography manual as a treasured artefact, something that has been studied in order to master a craft: the monochrome cover with its bold font gestures towards impregnable masculinity, while the Post-It notes’ neon pinks and pastels perhaps imply a feminine intrusion. While the 1970s saw the ascendancy of photography as a personal hobby, the burgeoning industry’s advertisements often made objectifying use of women to sell equipment to men. Collier’s work interrogates this imbalance of power – her tactics have included reimagining famed female photographic subjects such as Marilyn Monroe, placing the camera in their hands. Restaging the mechanics of looking, Collier exposes the photograph as an instrument of authority and control, and an engine of fiction as much as of detached truth.
The work of the Pictures Generation is also an important influence. As the artist explains, ‘their work – that is the work of artists such as Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Louise Lawler, Laurie Simmons, etc. – was effectively the first contemporary art that I was aware of. I understand their work as a generational reaction to the social and political landscape of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was, and remain, influenced by their work. It is hard to imagine making any kind of photographic image now without negotiating their work and its legacy’ (A. Collier, quoted in A. Farquharson, ‘Interview with Anne Collier,’ Nottingham Contemporary, 2011 http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/art/anne-collier [accessed 1 September 2016]). Indeed, the intelligent appropriative mode of the Pictures Generation can be clearly felt in Collier’s work, which explores the tension between her ostensibly forensic and ‘objective’ approach and the subjective, even emotive, conceptualism of her works. In Photography (2009), she forces us to reassess photography, and slyly recalibrates our very ways of seeing. ‘Photography, by its nature, encourages various forms of framing – whether it’s in the camera’s viewfinder, the format of the film used, or the dimensions of the subsequent print, you are constantly made aware of how a photograph edits things. The studio is increasingly present in my work as a kind of stage where objects are presented and documented … I’m interested in the apparent neutrality of these kinds of spaces, which include the monochromatic backdrops I also use in my work. Like the white cube gallery space, these visual devices serve to distance individual objects from their original circumstances or context, creating a space that is somehow both specific and ambiguous’ (A. Collier, quoted in A. Farquharson, ‘Interview with Anne Collier,’ Nottingham Contemporary, 2011 http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/art/anne-collier [accessed 1 September 2016]).