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The Ideal Woman: Awkward Portraits of Females Trying to Achieve the Impossible

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Being a good girl. The blond bombshell. The career woman. The nagging wife. A gracious lady. And, always at the ready, a bitch. Despite the efforts of the feminist movement, it could be said that the expectations of womanhood are more complicated now than ever before. Archaic notions of women’s roles are surprisingly still in play in today’s society, and exist in a bizarre juxtaposition of too many impossible goals. It is in this landscape that photographer Guia Besana presents her heroines, her series Under Pressure exploring the struggle of women attempting to be both empowered and appropriate all at once.

Shot in an old house outside of Paris, the images are imbued with paranoia and discomfort, each woman laboring under various social expectations and age-old tropes. The staged photographs are both surreal and bizarrely familiar, the female condition resulting in exhaustion and neurosis. Whether dressed as a doting mother or a strangely lethargic member of the military, Besana’s protagonists are hardly free to be themselves, torn apart by the irreconcilable enigma of the ideal woman.

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