CNN Photos

A different view of women

When Milwaukee-based artist Tara Bogart went to Paris in 2011, she was smitten by an exhibition of work from the late French photographer Nadar.

One photograph in particular, matted by a pristine oval, showed the back of a woman’s head with a striking hair clip.

“I could tell she was young,” Bogart said, “a contemporary for that time.”

It was particularly inspiring for Bogart. Young women in their 20s tend to express themselves in an outwardly fashion, she said. They don’t have as many reservations about the projection of their image as women in their 30s or, like Bogart, in their 40s, she said.

Bogart then took similar portraits for a photo project called “A Modern Hair Study.” Working at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, she easily found models in students and their friends.

When she was done, instead of a copy of Nadar’s work, she found a far more powerful message in her group of photographs.

“One of the things I really wanted to look at or think about was the fact that we’re all uniquely the same and different,” Bogart said. “I think we spend a lot of time critiquing how big someone’s eyes are or the shape of their nose or their chin or their haircut. Clothing, even. And I think that this was a way to take away those things and just look at the subtle differences and beauty of each of the women.”

“I thought there would be similar patterns,” within the group of portraits, she said. “And I feel like even though some things are similar, each one is like their own unique thing.”

The back of a woman may be something modern Americans seldom think about - “I have no idea what my back looks like,” Bogart said - but seeing the group of photographs at once reveals its great natural beauty.

The novelty of the subject sparks conversation across many different generations.

When older men viewed the project at an exhibition in Milwaukee, Bogart said they didn’t like it.

“They wanted to flip them around,” she said. “They could not pay attention to the subtlety of the images.”

Younger men, however, thought they were really interesting.

“I’ve had many amazing conversations (with men in their 20s) about women and not being able to make those critiques of what their faces look like,” she said.

“I like it,” she said. “To me, that’s a sign that there’s something to talk about there.”

- Ann Hoevel, CNN