Caroline May’s work examines the performance of identity, the social construction of gender and the divergence of desire.
In her series, The Hustler, the artist reverses the power dynamic between photographer and subject by directing her female gaze towards the male subject, who is flaunting his masculinity. Similarly, in her series The Ramble the artist looks for registers of sexuality and identity within public spaces. An attempt to reclaim parts of a privileged heteronormative public sphere, these photographs can be understood as both flirtatious and confrontational.
In the Killing Pictures she revisits the sites where homophobic murders took place. Stripped of any index of the actual event, the work questions the conventions of documentary photography and cast a shadow on the way images are used in the media to cultivate specific assumptions about the past and the present.
Caroline May’s work points to the multiplicity and complexity of factors that make the medium so heavily reliant on context. Her work dissents from the commonly held assumption that photography is a representation of or an index to the “truth” and she deploys the ambivalence of the medium to problematize about social and personal issues.
Caroline May’s new collage work is an insidious take on the duplicitous nature of photography. It continues the artist’s research on the possibilities of the medium. Taking found fashion photographs out of context, she scribbles or erases the faces of the models in them. This ‘erasure’ process allows for a politicized, post-feminist reading, aligned with the artist’s previous work, and signifies a break from imposed definitions of identity. Most importantly, it attempts to reconfigure new ways of image making. By Using fashion photography as a source, May attempts to undermine popular photography with philosophical (rather than stylistic) issues of form, representation and to question accepted definitions of the photograph.