American photographer Lauren Pisano creates images that encapsulate the experience of the self in its genuine form as related to a wider societal construct. Her work explores identity, femininity, and intimacy. Pisano appears as the subject in much of her work, yet these are not truly self portraits but a means to personify private aspects of ourselves. In this way, Pisano's work encourages the viewer to see themself in their truest form without reservation that is often buried in the daily grind.
Pisano's series of self portraits titled Packaging Yourself is a response to the 1977 book A Woman's Dress for Success by John T. Molloy. In his book, Malloy provides fashion do's and don'ts for women through a patriarchal lens no less, on various forms of women's fashion that will contribute to their success or destroy them personally and professionally. These "facts" are written by Molloy as if they are backed by legitimate research and not opinion. Packaging Yourself features the artist wearing many of the garments, accessories or styles Malloy describes as 'don'ts'. The work shines a light on the conversation about a woman's appearance and who has the authority to give a woman their opinion. Pisano's images show us not only how very sexist Molloy's writing is but also comments on how sexist and disturbing the unrequested opinion of others is regarding a woman's appearance.
The images in Packaging Yourself feel heavy and filled with tension. It evokes memories of what women are told since girlhood about how to dress oneself because if she attracts the wrong kind of attention it will be her own fault. "Way before any professional situation, young girls knew that how men would react to their appearance was the ultimate decider in what was a do vs. a do not wear." The choice of how to dress and style oneself is a very personal form of self expression. The types of suggestions in Molloy's writing deters women from feeling confident in their expression of self. Lauren's work is more than a visual representation of these fashion "don'ts". The images show the weight these rules create for girls and women.
By obstructing her face or intentionally leaving it out of the frame, Pisano subtracts her own identity as a statement about the expectations for women. Though Molloy's book was published in the 1970s, these "dos and don'ts" were not new and still exist in the present. Women have always used these expectations to move up in their careers, progress in their personal lives, and to deter men from giving them unsolicited attention. "I hope to create a window for women to see that by subconsciously subscribing to these ideas, often enforced by men with power, they have suppressed their own version of femininity, authority and sexuality in their wardrobe." Pisano was born and raised in Queens, New York. She studied photography at The School of Visual Arts in NYC. Her work has been published and exhibited across the US and internationally. Pisano was a Mother Art Prize 2020 finalist. She currently lives in Altadena, CA with her husband and son. Her work can be found on her website and on Instagram @lauren_pisano.