The idea that a photograph could of itself be a performance is a constant in the history of conceptual art and counters the particularly British suspicion of photography as anything other than documentary or photojournalism.
Unsurprisingly the surrealists were acutely attuned to the camera’s possibilities for mischief and provocation.
In the 1920s Marcel Duchamp collaborated with Man Ray to produce several portraits of himself as his female alter-ego, Rrose Sélavy – becoming this character to the extent that he even credited some of his readymades to her.
In the same decade Claude Cahun confronted fixed notions of gender and self-definition by making a series of androgynous self-portraits – including some of her as a man – that played on society’s discomfort with her very visible lesbian identity.
You can draw a line from Cahun’s photographic performances to the equally questioning and shape-shifting work of Cindy Sherman several decades later.
Performing for the Camera is full of similar connections across time and place but its subtext is a subtle repositioning of photography within the performance art tradition.