Paris show on women’s periods ‘breaks taboo’

Paris show on women's periods 'breaks taboo'
Twenty-four photographs that showcase a woman and her period, from her teens through to her menopause. Photo: Marianne Rosenstielh
A renowned French photographer is inviting a Paris audience with an open mind to venture into the world of women's menstrual cycles at an exhibition she's perhaps appropriately called 'The Curse'.

“Since my teens, I’ve always wondered why female blood was meant to be invisible,” photographer Marianne Rosenstielh explains.

She’s previously photographed the likes of actresses Juliette Binoche and Clemence Poesy but this time Rosenstielh’s take on femininity is far less commercial and politically correct.

‘The Curse’, exhibited at Le Petit Espace in Paris, takes visitors on a journey through the taboo and often clichéd subject of women’s menstrual cycles.

“When a taboo is so powerful, we are tempted just to obscure it,” Rosenstielh told The Local while explaining her motivation for exploring the topic.

"While I was doing some research, I realized that there was a blatant lack of representation of [the woman's menstrual cycle]", which for her was "suspicious”.

“The exhibition gives a face to a fantasy that has been built on anxiety," she added.

The display features 24 photographs that showcase a woman and her period, from her teens through to her menopause.

The photo above illustrates the expression "Les Anglais ont débarqué" (the English have disembarked), which means a woman is on her period. It refers to the English soldiers – known as the redcoats because of their red uniforms – disembarking on French beaches during the Napoleonic Wars. No prizes for guessing the link.

“Thousands of years of obscurity have turned a completely natural occurrence into a taboo,” Rosenstielh argues, while adding that she studied the work of art historians and anthropologists before preparing her exhibition.  

“Religions have often made their followers treat women as impure or maleficent during their periods.”

"My starting point was to ask myself how our generation is approaching this subject when we live in an environment free of religious beliefs," she told The Local.

Despite the controversy surrounding the subject matter, Rosenstielh has tried to steer clear of militant and shocking allusions in her photos.

“I want to offer a contemporary representation which allows each and every one of us to reflect on the subject matter.”

And despite the perhaps sensitive nature of the subject of her exhibition, she says the reaction from the public has been positive, especially among male visitors to the gallery.

“There was a little bit of anxiety from the public at first," she said. "The most enthusiastic reactions came from men.”

“I was pleasantly surprised, it is a relief for them.”

SEE ALSO: When sex and art collide in France 

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