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  • Place of origin:

    Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1989 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Spence, Jo, born 1934 - died 1992 (photographer)
    Martin, Rosy, born 1946 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour photograph

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Terry Dennett and The Jo Spence Memorial Archive

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 995

Jo Spence was a feminist artist and activist who explored themes of gender, class and self-identity. After Spence was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1982, she made several series of self-portraits documenting her battle with the disease until her death from leukaemia a decade later. The photographs expressed her physical and emotional state. Spence's doctor and collaborator Tim Sheard explained, ‘Spence is representing the honest emotions felt living in an unruly body that cannot conform to the pressures of female perfection expected and idealised in Western society’.

Working with artist and psychoanalyst Rosy Martin, Spence developed a co-counselling practice they called 'Phototherapy', which aimed to resolve emotional issues, anxieties or past traumatic experiences through role play and photographic portraiture. The series Libido Uprising criticises the role of women being limited to either carrying out domestic chores or the object of sexual desire. In this image, Spence stands erect as a sentry, carrying the familiar prop of the vacuum cleaner as the soldier would carry a weapon. As a sentry is disciplined to conform to the duties of his post, so Spence bears the vacuum cleaner as a symbol of the domestic duties so often expected of women.

Physical description

Colour photo, woman holding hoover.

Place of Origin

Britain (made)


1989 (made)


Spence, Jo, born 1934 - died 1992 (photographer)
Martin, Rosy, born 1946 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Colour photograph


Height: 40 cm, Width: 27.5 cm

Descriptive line

Photograph by Jo Spence in collaboration with Rosy Martin, from the series Libido Uprising, C-type print, 1989.






Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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