Kim Eliot Fung – Phenomenon of Being 2006
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It’s like returning to a location that filled the child-mind with its enormity only to find it suddenly shrunk, like music that once moved you, moving on now without you.
A rule to which there are precious few exceptions.
The disparity between perception and reality has to burn away over time, like morning fog. Perhaps this is what Baudelaire was about when he advised poets to burn anything written before the age of twenty-five if they wanted to be taken seriously.
If you take the idea of poetry literally: what of Rimbaud—who wrote everything he would ever write prior to turning twenty?
What if you define poetry as did Emily Dickinson—and I do—what does this mean for the photo poetry of Francesca Woodman?
What about Kim Eliot Fung who was a teenager when she made this photograph?
I mean there are certainly criticisms that can be made here—adolescent angst, sentimentality. I might even add question with regard to why the model’s head is cut off—though I think the effort of the image has something to do with the spectators gaze and how an awareness of that implication inverts and skews notions of anonymity, gender perception/performance and the politics of visual representation of identity.
Criticisms that the work lacks refinement or is unaccomplished are completely off base. In other words, it suggests a precocious understanding of what maturity entails even if it has not yet fully reached maturation.
This is one of my favorite photographs. Unlike so many things that I return to in time, this does not seem smaller than my memory of it. If anything, the opposite is true: the image itself seems larger, richer and fuller when measured against my memory of it.
It’s my hope that Ms. Fung will return to photography at some point. Until then she makes aprons and curates the always impressive Editor’s Index.