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Self Project

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Zimmer’s images accentuate femininity but protect it through objectified incorporeality.

Zoë Zimmer’s newest and maybe most personal work is listed on her website under the category “Self Project”. Herself and her fashion background – starting as a model and now working as a (fashion) photographer – is visible in these works. The images, created from 2014 until now, remind of advertisements from the 1950s and 60s. But Zimmer picks up more of this “add aesthetics”: the decade’s art world and it’s creativity are revived in her works.

The photographs refer to (the beginning of) Popart with their limited, rather strict but catchy range of colors, there are seldom more than four colors, their grain and their motives. It’s the style of classic art works, like Richard Hamilton’s Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? from 1956, mixed with a advertising and poster aesthetic that is shining through Zoë Zimmer’s Self Project series – her photographs take you back in time, but are anything else than obsolete. They rather create to a new, an appropriate way of looking.


Zoë Zimmer plays in her works with the female body. On the one hand the body, of which only individual parts are depicted, functions as the motive of the works. On the other hand it is only a compositional element of the whole image. Used like this the lips, the eye or the leg functions as a single element, which interacts with the saturated color fields of the severe, structured and like wise balanced composition.

A certain objectification of the body is the outcome of these compositions. On the motivic level Zimmer’s works questions the viewer’s gaze on the female body. The single body parts, resembling the stereotypical image of women in the 1950s, draw the attention of the viewer’s eye, but leave him in the dark how the entire body might look like. It seems as if the ‘model’ itself decides how much it, or rather she, wants to reveal of herself. The body parts literally step out through rifts in the surface of monotonous color fields, breaking up the image, opening it for the viewers gaze in total control. Zimmer’s images accentuate femininity but protect it through objectified incorporeality.


When did you start taking pictures? Did you study photography?

No, I didn’t. I started when I was about 21. I had been modelling for nearly seven years at that point and it was time to do something new. I had a real love/hate relationship with being a model, on one hand I loved being part of a creative process and on the other hand I hated being out of control. Plus I was really stubborn, which is a terrible trait in a model. I basically decided on a 3am whim to become a photographer. It was something I always had an interest in, but had over looked as a profession because I was resigned to the fact that I belonged on the other side of the camera. Like I said, I’m really stubborn, so once I made the decision to change I stuck to it, and had my first shoot organised by the following week.

Do you think it’s important to study photography?

Not necessarily. I think it’s more important to have a good eye and an idea you want to convey. I don’t think you can learn that, and I definitely don’t think you can teach it.


How do you find your subjects?

Well, at the moment all the work I’m doing is of myself. I’ve had people try to read more into this than there is. There’s no hidden meaning behind it, it’s not meant to be some kind of visual commentary on feminism or my experience as a model, or anything else equally profound. Really, I’m just very impatient. Need a shot of legs? I got those. Hands? I got those too. Easy.

What influences you / what are you’re sources of inspiration?

Oh man, the list is endless. Everything from Horst to Playboy. I’m inspired buy different eras, I’d say between the late 70’s and early 90’s predominantly. I like things that ride the line between really classy and really tacky.

How did you develop your own style?

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been interested in the same visual style. Even as a kid studying art at school all my projects were on Bourdin or Newton, Allen Jones or Mel Ramos: Highly stylised hot chicks. When I started doing fashion photography I tried to branch out from that a bit, but it never lasted. And now that I’m just working on my own projects I’ve gone back to my hot chick roots.


What are you currently working on?

I’m currently putting together a show, and I’m really taking my own sweet time about it. I’ve worked in the fashion industry since I was 15 years old, so hanging my work on the wall and declaring myself as some kind of “artist” is totally out of my comfort zone. Having said that, I’m really excited about it so I’m going to assume all the anxiety will be worth it… Right?

Did you ever feel discriminated because you are a woman in the photography business? 

No. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never experienced it. As with all professions, gender equality should be a non issue by now, but particularly in the arts. Male or female, if you have two eyes and an index finger then you’re qualified to be a photographer. Talent is the hard part, but luckily that’s unisex.


What was the best advise you ever received and/or what would you like to tell prospective/aspiring photographers?

“If you do something you love for long enough, eventually someones gonna pay you for it.” – My dad.

All images © Zoë Zimmer


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