Beautiful Terrible

Justin Dingwall

2019 - Ongoing

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.” - Frederick Buechner.

Beautiful Terrible is an art series by Justin Dingwall that explores the complicated representation of women in society.

The image of a bullfight can be seen as a metaphor that evokes the constant battle women face, where the bull and bullfighter are entwined in a paradox of opposing similarities, where a woman can be seen as both matador and bull simultaneously.

It echoes interchangeable and unstable roles in aspects such as: challenge versus resistance, dominance versus submission, action versus passivity, strength versus weakness, victor versus vanquished…

These opposing sides face each other head on in a battle that embodies a woman’s social strife.

By evoking a seemingly hyper-masculine sport such as bullfighting, and conversely focusing on depictions of female matadors in powerful imagery, this series confronts society’s perspectives.

It is a focus on perception, and how stereotypical notions are constructed based on perspective and social discourse, and it looks deeper into how these images, which seem to be fixed, can be changed.

Using a combination of photographic mediums for this art series, such as film, polaroid, and digital, Dingwall applies photographer Dorothea Lange’s ideas about photography to his exploration of society:

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera […] While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.”

The image of the bullfight in Dingwall’s art series charges the viewer and strikes at their perspectives, challenging them to face socially constructed ideas. The battle is now the viewer’s own, where they are placed into the bullring to confront these notions and their beautiful terrible consequences.

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