3: Self Portraiture
The following images are self-portraits, made without particular regard to their quality, but rather with the emphasis on emotional and therapeutic enquiry. I worked with reference to Cristina Nunez's Self-Portrait Experience methodology, looking at her three categories:
- ME (emotions, skills, character representation, body, places, roots)
- ME AND THE OTHER (relationship self-portraits)
- ME AND THE WORLD (self-portraits with our groups, the unknown community, the media and art)
It was difficult to narrow down my choices to three portraits, but I've chosen ones that I think most accurately represent me, rather than fragments of my thought processes. Under each photograph, I've written a supporting statement about the process and my underpinning thoughts.
Photographer and Subject, 2014
Strong, directional sunlight made this image possible. I was interested in the relationship between photographer and subject, and the lengths to which photographers go to conceal their physical selves from their images. I was inspired by Vivian Maier's use of shadow and her inclusion of herself in some of her iconic images. Monochrome seemed to articulate this most effectively.
Self-Portrait with Antlers, 2014
I went to Paris in 2008 with my dear friend Oliver, and I bought this hat on a whim. The hat represents an optimism and a respect for self that I don't often feel, and far less indulge by buying adornments for my body. It takes me back to that joyful time when the future was wide open for me. Wearing it this winter reminds me that I am still free.
Press to Open, 2014
This reflection was taken on a train, waiting for what feels like an eternity for the conductor to allow the doors to open. I seem to spend my life on this train, and I always feel slightly blurry by the end of the day when I get home. I'm so tired I can't see straight or stand straight and I can't frame a picture that doesn't cut my own head off. I'm usually a perfectionist, so the inclusion of this image is a deliberate strategy to challenge myself regarding what photography should look like.
These are the images I ultimately rejected, but I like each of them for the reasons stated underneath.
After Vivian, 2014
My friend and I had spent the day doing street photography in Stratford Upon Avon, my hometown for the last 23 years. I was struck by the decline of the town centre over that time, exemplified by the dereliction of the Town Host storefront. I hadn't realised at the time that I had taken a self-portrait with my friend. We are both huge Vivian Maier fans, and it was in fact a shared appreciation of her work that brought us together.
Marilyn Would Be Proud, 2014
As I age, I move further and further away from the Hope body shape of straight-up-and-down stick to the Walden pear shape. I'm ambivalent about this. My hips and thighs make me want to close my eyes and never look at myself again. Here, my shadow allows me to evaluate my outline without interference from other body parts.
Selfie with Mike Wazowski, 2014
When I took this self-portrait, I was feeling worried and pensive. I was trying to concentrate on my work, but couldn't, so I thought I should try to capture this need I had to be somewhere other than where I was - like a child, daydreaming at school, except with rather more anxious overtones. When I looked at the image, I burst into laughter - I hadn't noticed the sticker of Mike Wazowski (a character from the Disney film Monsters Inc) on the wall behind me.
In Between, 2014
I often wonder how much of ourselves we catch sight of in inadvertent reflections, and do we look away? Or do we engage with our own reflection in the same way that we might engage with the visages of others, with interest and curiosity? This photograph is a chance encounter with self, held and recorded for all of those who would rather look away.
Again, on the train: the daily commute from home to Birmingham. While the obliteration of half of my face due to light was unintentional at first, I played with a series of images on this theme looking at how recognisable I could still be with different proportions of my face missing. How much of ourselves is contained within the features we see? When do we start to disappear? And what happens then?