Sunday, January 29 at 11 p.m. – Independent Lens "The Woodmans"
(Rochester, NY) – The Woodmans is a fascinating, unflinching portrait of the late photographer Francesca Woodman, told through the young artist’s provocative work and remarkably candid interviews with her parents, who have continued their own artistic careers while watching Francesca’s professional reputation eclipse their own. With unrestricted access to
all of Francesca’s photographs, private diaries, and experimental videos, The Woodmans traces the story of an unforgettable family broken and then healed by their art. Produced and directed by C. Scott Willis, The Woodmans airs Sunday, January 29 at 11 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).
Francesca Woodman, born in 1958, was the daughter of artists George and Betty Woodman. She and her brother Charles grew up psychically and physically immersed in art, eating from plates that Betty made and surrounded by George’s paintings. In the Woodman household, art was life’s guiding principle and something that required constant, committed work. Inevitably, the children began to create art of their own.
Precocious and uncommonly determined, Francesca left home on her own initiative for boarding school, where she discovered and fell in love with photography. There she quickly developed an advanced, mature style, becoming her own nude model in complex, textured environments. At
17 she arrived at the Rhode Island Institute of Design like a rock star, with sophistication, confidence, and ambition to spare. In the late 1970s, she moved to New York and worked as a photographer’s assistant, working
odd jobs to help support herself. Drawing on her childhood obsession, she did fashion photography, trailblazing a stylish, sensual aesthetic that would later become an industry standard.
In 1980, eager to jumpstart their own careers, George and Betty joined Francesca in New York. But it soon became apparent that their daughter was in the throes of a serious depression. Unhappy in love and unable to work, she became withdrawn and attempted suicide. She recovered, but not for long, dying by her own hand in 1981.
More than thirty years after her death, Francesca’s haunting photographs are seen as among the most important and distinctive of her time. Maintaining her legacy has become a major part of her parents’ lives. Even as they strive to honor her work, they remain individually ambitious and competitive. After over fifty years of marriage, George and Betty stick together, and stick to
making and living with art, on into the future.
To learn more about the film, and the issues involved, visit the companion website at www.pbs.org/independentlens/woodmans. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.
Photo: Untitled 1980 (New York) – by Francesca Woodman
Credit: Courtesy of Courtesy Betty and George Woodman
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