Joan of Arc – Jeanne d’Arc 2005-
A story as old and as powerful as Joan’s has inspired many creative works, and I, in turn, was inspired by many of them. Leonard Cohen’s beautiful song, Joan of Arc, with its haunting melody and lyrics loaded with metaphors and archetypes, was an early catalyst for this body of work. Another musical-poetic influence was Patti Smith. George Bernard Shaw’s play, St. Joan, and Mark Twain’s, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, are important literary interpretations of Joan. However, as a photographer I wanted to add a photographic element to the body of work.
Ever since the dawn of consciousness from pictographs to semiotics, humans, and artists in particular, have struggled to convey meaning. Words and pictures are symbols humans use to convey meaning. Yet, the conveyance of meaning remains a difficult challenge, often escaping our most earnest attempts. I believe that when skillfully used together, language and photographs can become a third form of expression to convey meaning. My work seeks to unite these two symbols to express my understanding and feelings about this amazing young woman.
To me the power of photography lies in its connection to the real. In her collection of essays, On Photography, Susan Sontag says that photographs are stencils of the real. Even as my photographs are non-manipulated “stencils”, they are at the same time questions and statements of what was revealed to me along my journey.
In June 2005, I went to France for three months in search of Joan. My first approach was to deconstruct her using live models in constructed straight photographs. I soon abandoned the idea because I came to believe that the myth was too powerful and too pervasive to challenge so directly. In my travels throughout France, the ever-present statues of Joan haunted me. The sculptors who created these statues chose a portion of her myth to depict. As a consequence, they enhanced and grew the myth. I use their work to ask questions and to make statements in the same way as they expressed the “facts” of Joan’s life to create statues. I appropriated their art to reinvent the myth using non-manipulated photographs with quotes and poems as language to express my understanding of this amazing young woman. My work thereby attempts to deconstruct the myth of Joan.
For centuries, Joan has embodied the hope of women who dream of accomplishments in the face of religious oppression and the constraints of a patriarchal society. My hope is that my work raises awareness of Joan and reveals correlations relating to modern-day feminist issues. It further seeks to enhance understandings of this extraordinary young woman without whom France would likely have ceased to be a country in the fifteenth century.