Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Dr. Robert Hobbs


This thesis proposes that California contemporary photographer Catherine Opie's Being and Having series (1991) and her Portrait series (1993-1996) parody the constraining binary gender discourse and stereotypes that emanate from it. In her art Opie uses familiar codes and identity discourses associated with traditional portrait photography and typological photographs to promote a postmodern and fluid model of gender identity. Her manipulation of photographic technique and subject matter validates cultural stereotypes of gender at the same time that it destabilizes them. Opie also simultaneously highlights fallacies such as the presumed objectivity and evidential force that is associated with the discourse of portrait photography as a documentary field. By presenting her portraits of lesbians to broad-based audiences in such a blatant and stylized manner, Opie comments on the limitations of society's continued reliance on gender non-nativity and physiognomic modes of identifying communities.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008