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Alice Hawkins: ‘The Female Gaze’

Exhibition dates: 5 December 2008 - 7 February 2009
Preview: Thursday 4 December, 6:00 - 8:00pm

"Alice Hawkins has the audacity which photography needs."  Nick Knight, 2003.

Alice Hawkins moves between the worlds of fine art and fashion, working across the page and gallery wall. Her first one-person exhibition reveals nearly 70 new works, including images taken across the last decade and ones
specially commissioned.

Hawkins' images are always portraits, and her sitters occupy a bewildering range of social situations and geographical locations. Her photographs have been
shot over four continents, in cities from Tokyo to St Petersburg and from Las Vegas to Blackpool.

Nick Knight has described Hawkins' work as capturing "the everyday burlesque": what is theatrical or outrageous in ordinary life. At a casual glance, she seems to celebrate all that lies outside orthodox 'good taste'. However, her area of investigation is not to ask
how identity is simply invested in our appearance - rather it is to ask how we might cultivate our appearance to exceed what others expect of our identity. Put another way, for Hawkins, adhering to received wisdom in our self-presentation is to fit ourselves into pre-allocated social roles.

Hawkins' world is populated by individuals whose
self-cultivation and self-styling goes beyond accepted
norms. The common denominator between her portraits is that her sitters' appearances exceed or else contradict what we might initially expect of them. To adapt a phrase coined by the political think tank 'Progress', Hawkins' sitters seem to be "constantly engaging in counter-intuitive positioning." 1 That is to say, she and her collaborators take the position that 'all the world is a stage'. Armed with this observation, they either cast themselves 'against type', or else surpass stereotypes.

The exhibition includes images of people who would
normally never appear in fashion photography - whether because of age, appearance, status or geography. Hawkins asks what the limits of our idea of 'beauty' are, and who is excluded from the space of the mainstream media. Hawkins' role as a photographer has been to expand our understanding of what is 'desirable' or 'beautiful', and to bring new subjects and situations into fashion photography.

The exhibition includes a new body of work co-commissioned by the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool.

1 ''Safety first' won't win..." Report published 1st February 2008 at
and in The Guardian, main section, p1, 1st February 2008


All images: Alice Hawkins, from 'The Female Gaze', 2008

UK agent Patricia McMahon: