WHY I LIKE THIS by Emma Thom
Mrs Edward Mayer as Medusa, from Madame Yevonde’s Goddesses series is without a doubt one of the most striking images in the National Photography Collection.
Ravishingly beautiful, Yevonde’s Medusa is, for me, not simply another treatment of the mythological monster in modern culture. The symbolism of this early colour portrait is threefold, representing the feminist, artist, and pioneer.
Medusa’s fearsome visage is often adopted by feminists as a symbol of female rage. Being an outspoken advocate of women’s rights, I wonder if Yevonde had this in mind as she shot this particular society lady.
Yevonde’s methods were nothing short of avant-garde. She was openly enthusiastic about the use of colour in photography despite a culture of hostility - it is a joy to behold such beautiful colour work from an era most often seen in black and white.
Vivex was Yevonde’s preferred process; it allowed for all kinds of colour manipulation. Her desire to experiment, along with that perfect combination of skill and vision produced thousands of alluring and timeless portraits.
Yevonde’s Medusa would be at home on the walls of the world’s most prestigious galleries, as on the pages of the hippest fashion magazines.
Emma Thom is the senior web content coordinator at the National Media Museum. She is currently working with the curatorial team to increase the digital profile of their photography, cinematography and television collections.
Visit the Yevonde Portrait Archive website
Image use: Mrs Edward Mayer as Medusa, 1935, Madame Yevonde, The Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum, Bradford © Yevonde Portrait Archive