Living in the West, the divide between men and women’s roles is glossed over. We see powerful women taking important roles in society, business, and even the home, so there is now a more balanced approach to gender equality. However, Patty Carroll has blown the lid off this with her new series, Anonymous Women: Draped. With female figures being showcased in luscious fabrics, these women are barely visible, and their subtle outlines hardly intelligible. Carroll explores how these archaic views on women’s domesticity oppress women in the U.S. and worldwide.
The shoot is actually an ongoing project, in which Patty Carroll finds fabrics in thrift shops in her native Chicago and matches them with the scenario she is picturing. However, while the photographer is American, her design inspiration stemmed from 90’s Britain “heavy drapery” and her experience in Catholic school. Saying of her time there, ” I grew up with nuns as teachers, and unlike priests they were always encased in their habits, so you never knew who they were as individuals.”
It is not only nuns that are pictured here however, the artist claims to have drawn inspiration from women in the burqa, the Virgin Mary, judges’ robes, and ancient Greek and Roman dress. Despite the seriousness of the topic at hand and the ambition to uncover the female role or identity, Carroll has stated that she does enjoy infusing some humor into her work and is not afraid to laugh at herself. Placing magazines in the hands of her anonymous muses and choosing more comical fabrics are just a way for her to show that.
In addition, she has stated that she doesn’t place blame. While society plays a large role in women’s domesticity, Carroll also believes that females sometimes, “lose perspective and become possessed by [their] material goods,” signaling to the significance of such intricate drapery in the form of a shield.
In any case, the imagery is still powerful to the viewer all the same and leaves much to be thought about when it comes to gender, societal roles, and material possession, in addition to being an interesting series to look at visually.
All photos belong to Patty Caroll