The F Word In Pictures

Michael Salu

I was raised in a world of women. Mother, aunts (some brandishing cakes, others canes). I remember creeping silently into my great-grandmother’s bedroom to steal sweets, unaware that her other senses were heightened significantly due to her cataracts. Girl cousins ruined rainy Nintendo afternoons by hogging the TV to dance to Whitney Houston videos. Female friends still tell me I collect too much fluff . . .

Simone de Beauvoir said, ‘The most sympathetic of men never fully comprehend woman’s concreted situation.’ It was with that admonition in mind that I set out on the daunting task of finding the right way to build a visual complement to the writing in our feminism issue.

Our photo essay for Granta 115, ‘Un-possible Retour’ – simultaneously moved the son, brother, lover and aesthete in me. The images juxtapose a series of recreated family portraits alongside their originals. The recreations are of the same protagonists, maybe fifteen, twenty or thirty years later. They wear the same clothes, expressions and poses. They might be in the exact same bath or resting their heads on the same spot on the same sofa. The effect is spellbinding.

Clarisse’s execution of this project is immaculate, down to the precise colour matching of the smallest details, but all this does – as Téa Obreht expressed so brilliantly in her introduction – is hurtle you into the epicentre of your own fervent memories. Memories of lost loves; of family no longer here, or no longer where you want them to be. Somehow even the joyous moments in this series, the gaiety of mother and daughter together, sends out a jolt. Maybe one of regret or simply the realization that moments are fleeting and precious.


‘Naddy Photomaton (My grandmother)’ ©Clarisse d’Arcimoles

Judit Ferencz is a recent graduate in illustration from Kingston University and a talented artist who manages to create so much atmosphere and emotion from the simplest of elements in her illustration accompanying Helen Simpson’s ‘Night Thoughts’. Paper cuts alone somehow recreate the tension between the reverse-gender-responsibility-couple made so very vivid in Simpson’s clever story.

Her work came to my attention after it was included in the annual D&AD. Her illustration for Lydia Davis’s ‘The Dreadful Macumas’ exhibits her unique capacity to produce material that is striking, clever and witty, a visual equivalent to wordplay that evokes the essence of Saul Bass and Milton Glaser.


Left image ©Judit Ferencz, right image ©Natalie Wood

The F Word, proved to be a great opportunity to give a group of talented illustrators the conceptual fuel to respond to the written word, to take the ideas and characters into the realm of moving image. Following up on our foray into
#eval $ga_trackedlink using { “href”:”http://www.thisisnotapurse.com/\#/intro”, “contents”:”moving illustrations for the sex issue”, “rel”:”external” }
, we commissioned three moving image artists to create individual responses to the stories in Granta 115.


‘When he woke up, everything was exactly the same as it had been the night before…’ ©Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits


stark and slightly unnerving interpretation of

is beautifully crafted. Listen to the minimal, repetitive soundtrack – how it builds the tension, the familiar sense of insomnia and the realisation of the inevitable.

Aftermath, a stop-motion animation by
Kris Hofman
, is a moving response to Rachel Cusk’s beautifully crafted piece about the breakdown of her marriage. The symbolism Kris creates with banal domestic items is breathtaking. The restraint and attention to detail are accompanied by an incredible score, creating lullaby, with a slight underlying tone of menace and danger.



Em Cooper
is a whirlwind of energy, countless ideas and immense talent. Her response to Maja Hrgovi?’s short, intense and visceral lesbian love story ‘Zlatka’, set within the architecture of Zagreb, was so apt, it was as though Maja herself had poured her words out on to the meticulously hand-painted frames of intensity. Em set about covering all the necessary details in such a short space of time, even filming the dance scene in an actual club whilst pretending to be on a hen do! That kind of dedication and authenticity speaks volumes.?


Also on The F Word Online:

‘Fortunate It Is If Her Skirts Do Not Catch Fire’: a new poem by Amy Gerstler (and Florence Nightingale).

The latest podcast featuring a conversation between Rachel Cusk, Sigrid Rausing and Taiye Selasi.

Hannah Gersen, Rachel Genn and Tess Lynch on their personal feminist bibles.

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Granta 115: The F Word


A Revolution of Equals
Reading Women