Susanna and the Elders subverts the Old Testament story of the virtuous woman pursued by two lecherous elders. The theme (widely depicted throughout art history as a subject of female eroticism) usually depicts a naked young woman spied on, and harassed by "elders" of the community. Combining nine photographs of ancient and modern scenes, I have alluded to the biblical origins of the story, while introducing a contemporary woman in the role of Susanna. Susanna for centuries presented as passive, now turns the “male gaze” back on her subjects.
The image combines sources spanning different times and locations. While the background setting is the Roman Baths, in Bath, England, the foreground building is in the Roman Forum, Italy. The two nude bathers, chosen for their timeless character, are digitally inserted into the waters of the Grand Canal, Dublin. The young woman is in contemporary dress adopting a pose, which references the famous Lewis Morley photograph of Christine Keeler, taken as publicity for the film The Keeler Affair (1964).
In its relatively seamless merging of styles, periods and sources, this montage presents a fabricated reality. It is of a different form to that of studio posed photograph, as it makes free use of subjects, photographs and sources, beyond any one location. It combines huge differences in time, both in terms of the biblical subject matter, and the subjects of my photographs, captured between 1988 and 2001. This blending of components creates a new and extended reality, which breaks with the conception of the photograph as a frozen moment in time. This extended time frame establishes a connection with a painting (for example) in its gradual synthesis over time. The conflation of the historic with the contemporary makes time elastic, and it is this extensibility that enables the work to address an ancient subject in a contemporary fashion. In Susanna and the Elders the extension of time is a vital component of the subject and of its historical theme, brought into contemporary life. This ability to stretch the time of an image negates time itself. This photo-montage contradicts the photograph’s established function of stopping time. Its multiplication and augmentation of time and place extends the frozen moment into a fixed duration.