Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thinking On The End Of You - A Magpie Tale

image from Tess Kincaid - by Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman (USA, April 3, 1958 – January 19, 1981) was a photographer best known for her black and white pictures featuring herself and female models. Many of her photographs show young women who are nude, who are blurred (due to movement and long exposure times), who are merging with their surroundings, or whose faces are obscured. Her work continues to be the subject of much attention, years after she committed suicide at the age of 22.

Woodman had only a few exhibitions during her life, some of which have been described as "exhibitions in alternative spaces in New York and Rome." There were no known group or solo exhibitions of her work between 1981 and 1985, but numerous exhibitions each year since then. Public opinion has generally been favorable towards Woodman's work. At the 1998 exhibition in Paris, many people had "strong reactions" to her "interesting" photographs. A number of people have found Woodman's individual photos (for example "Self-portrait at 13") or her photography in general inspirational.

To catch a sense of Francesca in the words of her parents, George and Betty Woodman, her brother Charlie, and her former classmates go to Independent Lens

Annie Sheekley (April 1947-October 2012) was at one time among the top child welfare social workers in the state of Oregon although completely unknown beyond her immediate circles. She died of complications brought about by several years of complex and somewhat mysterious physical ailments, depression and alcoholism.

Thinking On The End Of You

When Bets found you there
behind your own bed curled up
tight, as if turning
into your own pain
you were young, though not as young
as Woodman. That must
have hung George and flensed
Betty, poor souls, just as you
felled us like hewn trees.
Francesca died all
at once while you went inches
at a time but just
as damn certainly.

August 12, 2012 6:24 AM

This poem is offered as a Magpie Tale connected to Tess Kincaid's blog post Mag 130 on The Mag a highly active website gathering participants from a worldwide circle of creative bloggers.


  1. You had me rushing to look up what 'flensed' means - although I though originally it was 'flayed' - I guess the sense came across anyhow. Disturbing post to match a disturbing picture.

  2. Thank you for invoking the photographer herself and the story of her contained in her image. Moving and powerful.

  3. what a hard life she lived...i wonder too how much came out of the stories she lived as a social worker...hmm...maybe i need a change...smiles...

    the dying inch by inch got me having watched my MIL do that over 2 years...

  4. i found this very moving....x

  5. Christopher, I also felt myself falling in love with Francesca today ... your post is awesome!

  6. 'Just as certainly' is a great way to put it! suicide whether slow or fast,
    is dreadfully sad. Thanks.

  7. suicide is a difficult behavior to comprehend by those of us who are not plagued with depression to the depths of the Woodmans, Plaths, Ann sextons and your Annie. They used their art to try to reveal it to us and we praise their work while still not comprhending. I speak for myself only.

  8. As one of us shared, Francesca lept to her death and also left a clear understandable note. I went through a period and left journals behind. I too looking at my younger self from this distance am struck with the depression signals in what I wrote. Yet I am certain I did not feel depressed then. I don't know what to make of that. I lived with a seriously depressed woman. She was not creative when depressed, nowhere near the creative displays of Francesca. For that matter, Annie was nowhere near the lesser creativity of that earlier life I lived either. The artists' pain is not the same thing as depression but necessarily may use similar language. The photos speak better than words, I think.

  9. This is really good. I especially liked the ending:

    "Francesca died all
    at once while you went inches
    at a time but just
    as damn certainly"

  10. Oh by the way, Annie was not a suicide in any normal sense. She died of an acute outbreak of kidney distress, unable for some reason to take herself to emergency one more time. She had been to emergency so many times before.

  11. lost into the lightless realm
    beyond the sadness that encircles
    to squelch the breath of hope
    that certainly
    there must be more

  12. Thanks for the information. The last lines on dying bit by bit is just as tragic surely as leaping to one's death ~

  13. So tragic... I love how you included her in the poem.

  14. And there are the living dead, complete non entities , so many of them, thanks Chris, we need to view the horror too.

  15. Life has some difficult passages that need to be endured by some of us. A very sad story about your Annie. It's so kind of Tess to keep this forum alive so we don't have to keep the pain inside. Thank you for sharing this, Christopher. I love the words you use and the way you group thoughts together. You have an expressive talent.

  16. cool! very informative as usual... love it! thanks!



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