Research Point: Tracey Moffatt

Under the Sign of Scorpio is a series of photographs in which Australian photographer Tracey Moffatt appears as forty women from history and popular culture, who all happen to be born under the astrological sign Scorpio. Being a Scorpio herself, Moffatt has always been intrigued about what makes the Scorpio tick. She says ‘It is such a powerful and intense sign. Scorpios can crossover into dark worlds and come back unscathed’. Through the series, Moffatt pays tribute to an array of extraordinary women, who in many ways typify the characteristics of a Scorpio. They women she portrays include Marie Curie, Hillary Clinton, Whoopi Goldberg, Joni Mitchell and Vivien Leigh to mention but a few.


The series was made in a makeshift studio in the bathroom of Moffatt’s New York apartment over the course of six months, which included a cold and miserable winter. Moffatt cleverly uses props, clothing, gesture and impersonation to capture the character of each of the women. ‘In my portraits I have tried to capture their spirit and likeness, but only at a moment’s glance. It is almost like the moment when you see a famous person in a restaurant. Everyone is craning their necks to get a glimpse, only to end up with a fleeting view of the back of the celebrity as they exit into the VIP room’. Mountains, nebula and other high-key backgrounds are added with Photoshop to complete the transformations.  ‘Rather than a formal portrait, I wanted a very pop, almost comic book quality. I propose that all of these women are ‘pop figures’, they are a part of the landscape of popular western culture.’


Under the Sign of Scorpio features two sets of photographs, the enhanced final images and a series of contact sheets, which demonstrate Moffatt as she gets into character in the rough makeshift studio in her home. Moffatt’s bright spirited images highlight the role photography plays in the creation of the celebrity status. The inclusion of the contact sheets presents the viewer with a warts and all view of Moffatt’s masquerading, showing the mediums paradoxical nature. For all of photography’s limitations, there are also infinite possibilities.



Bright, S. (2010) Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography, London: Thames & Hudson.Moffatt, T. (2005) Being – Under the Sign of Scorpio [images online], Rosyln Oxley9 Gallery, available: [accessed 1 Oct 2015].

Moffatt, T. (2005) Under the Sign of Scorpio [images online], Rosyln Oxley9 Gallery, available: [accessed 1 Oct 2015].




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