HSC Visual Art Resources

A resource site for visual art teachers and secondary students completing their HSC in the Visual Arts


Yvonne Todd
Frenzy (The Lamb’s Book Of Life series) 2007
lightjet print
108 x 135 cm

Yvonne Todd
Frenzy (detail)

Yvonne Todd
Pipe Study Face Prototype (Mauve Reaction series) 2008
lightjet print
20 x 20 cm

Yvonne Todd, born 1973, Auckland, New Zealand, lives and works in Auckland.

Yvonne Todd creates portraits of women as female characters, often the forgotten and marginalised, sourced from reality, literature and Todd’s imagination. these figures are often altered to create  unsettling portraits filled with gawky 80’s nostalgia, empty gazes and poses, big hair and teeth, coupled with skilled post production altering faces just slightly and creating a shinny gloss that covers everything, nodding to methods used in commercial photography and advertising genres.

Trained in commercial photography before studying at art school and becoming an artist, Todd uses the same techniques required in commercial photographic studio portrait and product shoots. However, instead of using these techniques to create a sense of perfection, Todd creates images that are disquietingly a little bit off and not quite right. Todd’s fascination with artificial studio photography, as well as props, wigs and false teeth and post production through Photoshop, heightens the cliches used by Todd, through costume and aspects of performance to create these images of young women as artificial icons and reflections of past social roles. Todd often works from inspirations and ideas that are collected in her work book before shooting in studio with a 4×5 camera, using transparency sheet film before moving onto digital manipulation.

Todd counts memories of reading Virginia Andrews novels, ‘beautiful teenage girls involuntarily corrupted by perverse ancestral spectacles’ as influence, along with stories of women as daughters or wives of rich families, forgotten in histories, or relegated to bylines. the artworks become portrait of product rather than person through the de-characterisation of the sitter through post production techniques that either hide or promote physical afflictions. in Todd’s images appearance is everything, but it’s what appearance actually is, that is being explored.

I’m really interested in manipulating the conventional and familiar. 

– Yvonne Todd

Todd avoids the hackneyed  sentiments of the fantasist and the drudgery of the unmitigated realist,  instead amalgamating the two to form a unique oeuvre at once erotic,  nostalgic and deeply effecting.

– Megan Dunn

My self-portraits are about historic bit-parts, real-life people who I feel compelled to become and inhabit. They represent my interest in life’s peripheral characters: Larry Fortensky vs. Elizabeth Taylor, for example. They aren’t a comment on beauty as much as my interest in the irrelevant and obscure.

– Yvonne Todd

But I am interested in the way costumes are tied to history, the way they carry character and narrative connotations. 

– Yvonne Todd

I’m angling more for the pathetic. I respond to stoicism and piety, deflation and disappointment. I avoid hideous words like ’empowerment’ or anything else in keeping with the heroic.

– Yvonne Todd

Yvonne Todd
Wet Sock (Vagrants’ Reception Centre) 2005
lightjet print
36 x 28.6 cm

Yvonne Todd
Fractoid (11 Colour Plates series) 2004
lightjet print
62.7 x 47 cm



  • Yvonne Todd, worked in commercial photography before going to art school
  • interested in forgotten women
  • explores cliche portrait photography studio tricks, lighting and backdrops in own art
  • presents portraiture as product placement


  • predominately of female figures
  • photographic imagery
  • merges commercial and fine art photography


  • accesses artwork through galleries and museums
  • may or may not pick up on the digital retouching that has been done to each image
  • links to advertising and magazine imagery familiar to them
  • may or may not know the history of the persona being presented to them as the figure in the artwork


  • advertising and product placement
  • digital retouching
  • photographic portraiture
  • references 80’s culture and other historic time periods through costume

Yvonne Todd
Approximation Of Tricia Martin (Crater Of Phlox series) 2007
lightjet print
60 x 49 cm

Yvonne Todd
Springtime 2006
lightjet print
43.6 x 34.5 x 3.5 cm



  • haunting, disquiet feelings
  • reminded of past times and history through the costumes
  • reactions to gaze of the sitter in the portrait
  • imaginative thought as to who the person and their scenario
  • aspects not quite right in the images


  • photographic imagery
  • use of props and costume to reference previous portraiture techniques and times
  • photographed with studio lighting
  • predominantly soft tones
  • retouching to remove or strengthen impurities through Photoshop
  • western models and clothing
  • distortions in the portrait sitter’s appearance


  • middle, upper class represented
  • explores notions of beauty, particularly artificial beauty
  • western portrait studios
  • predominant depiction of females, western, white women
  • referencing women as bylines, forgotten women from rich families, either from real life or fiction
  • young women, coming of age


  • appropriating commercial portrait studio props, lighting and retouching methods
  • humor and parody through the use of digital retouching to exaggerate a defect rather than to diminish it
  • references women figures from both real life and fiction
  • manipulating and changing the familiar, questioning conventions of beauty

Yvonne Todd
Pipe Study (Mauve Reaction series) 2008
lightjet print
158 x 121 cm

Yvonne Todd
Limpet (Vagrants’ reception centre series) 2005
Lightjet print
100 x 73.8cm


  • photographic portrait studio skills
  • commercial photographer before fine art photographer
  • retouching and digital manipulation skills
  • uses transparency film with 4×5 camera in a studio
  • explores ideas and interests in work book
  • interested in notions of beauty
  • portraiture as product placement
  • removing or enhancing bodily flaws
  • women represented as historical figures

Yvonne Todd
Alice Bayke (Sea Of Tranquility) 2002
type c print
104 x 83.1 cm

Yvonne Todd
Piken (Sets and Subsets series) 2010
colour photograph
160 x 124 cm










Yvonne Todd
Fleura (The Bone Of Jupiter series) 2004
lightjet print
51 x 41 cm

Yvonne Todd
Fleshtone (Cabin Fever series) 1997
type c print
25.4 x 20.32 cm


This entry was posted on 05/07/2012 by in All, New Zealand, Photography.