PART 3: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 3 Self-absented portraiture

Nigel Shafran (b1964) is young British photographer who worked for fashion and architecture magazines in the nineties. He began making series of images that focused on different rituals of his domestic life, or as he puts it a deep interest in the common place (Anon, nd). Apart from photographing his girlfriend Ruth and aspects of their everyday life, his work often seems to include collections of things, goods in charity shops, trees, His series “Washing up” (2000) concentrated on various arrangements of washing up on draining boards.

washing_up_2000_01 (Obsessive Collectors Archive, 2017).

Exercise

You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

  • Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

No I wasn’t at all surprised that the work was by a man I don’t think the subject matter is gender specific at all in these times.

  • In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I guess that gender must contribute to an image and certainly there are many photographers that explore and make statements about gender such as Claude Cahun. However it may be no more contributory to an image than the other myriad personal characteristics that each photographer has.

  • What does this series achieve by not including people?

By not including people in these photographs you are forced to look closer at the objects and the way they are presented to fathom their meaning. An atmosphere is also added by the knowledge that people were there but have now gone. At my first viewing I didn’t see the explanatory text that accompanied the images and struggled to find the information contained in them without the artists signposting. They also appear more factual, I think fiction rather than non-fiction, akin to cataloguing without humans in the images

  • Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

I can appreciate that some might find these interesting “still life” compositions however without the text and the back story they would not appeal to me. I do find the clinical colours and the limited colour that he places me each composition pleasing though.

Reference

 Anon (n,d) “Texts: Nigel Shafran”. Nigelshafran.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. http://nigelshafran.com/texts/ accessed 11.4.17

Obsessive Collectors Archive. (2017). Washing-up 2000. [online] Available at: http://obsessivecollectors.com/washing-up-2000 [Accessed 17 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.

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PART 3: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 2 Masquerades

Exercise

Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Think carefully about the memory you choose and how you’ll recreate it. You’re free to approach this task in any way you wish.

A strong childhood memory

When I was young I shared many hours talking to my Father whilst he was working underneath the car fixing it. So I chose to recreate the roles a generation on; this time I’m under the car whilst my son is trying to have a conversation with me. I have recreated the scenario literally, excepting that the car and our clothing are modern rather than from the 70s.

The image would definitely need some accompanying text were it not for my explanation above, as it would be meaningless to viewers.

The photograph triggers my memory and it amuses me to have my son in my former role, he does not have my patience and I doubt that I would have the patience to talk to him whilst simultaneously working on the car. It triggers my memory rather than recreates it as in my childhood, I was sat on a concrete drive, my Father was always all but his feet under the middle of the car, but my low profile car wouldn’t allow me to do this.

Hopefully it communicates to the viewer through our body language a close relationship between two people, some degree of empathy and patience, which is what my memory is  all about.

IMG_5957 ps 1500

PART 3: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 2 Masquerades

Exercise: Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?

Nikki S Lee (b 1970) transforms herself through clothing, make up, and gestures into a look alike for a specific american subculture and then mingles with a similar group of people. She then asks them to photograph her. Through this she is exploring “issues of identity and social behaviour” (International Center of Photography, 2017). Her groups include, Hispanics, Yuppies, seniors, Hip hops, Tourists, and skateboarders:

seniors (Tonkonow.com 2, 2017).

skateboarders6 (Tonkonow.com 1 2017).

Apparently “Lee believes that individual identity is fluid and that her Projects were extensions of herself” (Anon, 2017). As she assumes various identities through photography she becomes recognisable only by her own ethnicity.

This work causes you to question: What is the essence of an identity? How do you identify someone and the group that they belong to? How fluid actually is identity?

I don’t find her work voyeuristic or exploitative as in her images the sub groups all look as if they are enjoying sharing her experience with her and are happy to be photographed with her. I think she is commenting both on her identity, it’s fluidity as well as the identities of others.

Trish Morrissey (b ) travelled to beaches in Melbourne and the UK, found family groups and asked if she could assume the identity of one of them (usually) the mother figure, by wearing their clothes and being photographed In their place with the group. The image was then named after the person she replaced in the group.

morrisy Trishmorrissey.com. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trish-Morrissey-Photographs-Katy-McDonnell Mutantspace. (2017). Trish Morrissey Photographs: Front On The Beach | mutantspace. [online] Available at: http://www.mutantspace.com/trish-morrissey-photographs-front-on-the-beach/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trish-Morrisseys-photograph-from-Kingsgate-Bay-2006WideWalls. (2017). A Story of the Proto-Selfie: Self Portrait Photography and Photographers. [online] Available at: http://www.widewalls.ch/self-portrait-photography-photographers/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

These photographs are probably about family conventions, relationships with strangers, boundaries, trust and to an extent privacy, “Ideas around the mythological creature the ‘shape shifter’ and the cuckoo are evoked” (Morrissey, 2017).  She fits in perfectly and it is only when you view a number the images you notice her as the replacement. I find the concept and the enactment disturbing and most definitely would not agree to her request to replace me within a family photograph.

Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

 In her “Seven Years” project (2001-2004) she and her sister recreated family photos, impersonating others and changing gender and generations “blurring the line between fact and fiction”( (Morrissey cited in Lens Culture, 2017). The seven years refers to their age difference. She seems fascinated by the idealised version of family life presented in family photos, their awkwardness and the faces that people use for the camera. I find them unsettling but amusing. Unlike her “Front” series I feel they are not exploitative or “cuckoo” like.

morrissey seven.jpg September 20th 1985 (2004). © Trish Morrissey. (LensCulture, 2017)

morrissey 2.jpg  January 25th 1979 (2003). © Trish Morrissey. (LensCulture, 2017)

In her “Failed realist” series she worked collaboratively with her four year old daughter exploring what the psychologist Georges-Henri Luquet (1927/2001) described as The Failed Realist stage, where children’s expression of the world is hampered by their physical skills. In her artist statement she explains:

Once my daughter’s “motor skills evolved sufficiently well for her to control a paintbrush, she wanted to paint me rather than be painted.  Instead of the usual motifs of butterfly, or flower, she would decide to paint something from her immediate experience – a movie she had just watched, a social event, a right of passage, or a vivid dream.” (Trishmorrissey.com. 2017).

Tooth-Fairy The tooth Fairy 2011. Trish Morrissey (Trishmorrissey.com. 2017)

This is of course another example of self-portraiture being an exploration of others rather than yourself, rather like “Front” and “Seven “ by Morrissey. The worl of Morrissey and  Lee are great explorations of the fluidity of identity.

References

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: https://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/nikki-s-lee [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

International Center of Photography. (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/nikki-s-lee?all/all/all/all/0 [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

LensCulture, T. (2017). Seven Years – Photographs and text by Trish Morrissey | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/trish-morrissey-seven-years [Accessed 5 Apr. 2017].

Morrissey, T. (2017). Front – ZoneZero: photographic convergence. [online] Zonezero.com. Available at: http://zonezero.com/en/liquid-identity/205-front [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trishmorrissey.com. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-tfr/workpg-11.html [Accessed 5 Apr. 2017].

Mutantspace. (2017). Trish Morrissey Photographs: Front On The Beach | mutantspace. [online] Available at: http://www.mutantspace.com/trish-morrissey-photographs-front-on-the-beach/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Tonkonow.com. (1) (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: http://www.tonkonow.com/lee_projects_8.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Tonkonow.com. (2) (2017). Nikki S. Lee. [online] Available at: http://www.tonkonow.com/lee_projects_2.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Trishmorrissey.com. (2017). Trish Morrissey. [online] Available at: http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

WideWalls. (2017). A Story of the Proto-Selfie: Self Portrait Photography and Photographers. [online] Available at: http://www.widewalls.ch/self-portrait-photography-photographers/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.

 

PART THREE: PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE

Project 1

Autobiographical self-portraiture

Exercise: Reflect on the pieces of work discussed in this project in your learning log and do some further research of your own. Here are a few questions you might ask yourself:

  • How do these images make you feel?
  • Do you think there’s an element of narcissism or self-indulgence in focusing on your own identity in this way?
  • What’s the significance of Brotherus’s nakedness?
  • Can such images ‘work’ for an outsider without accompanying text?
  • Do you think any of these artists are also addressing wider issues beyond the purely personal?

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) shot mainly black and white photographs, which may at first seem impromptu were actually carefully constructed. She told her friend Sloan Rankin why she was so often the subject of her own photographs, Woodman replied: ‘It’s a matter of convenience, I’m always available’ (quoted in Rankin 1998, p.35).

 Space?, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 1975-8 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 (Tate 1, 2017)

This is one of a series of seven from Woodman’s Space2 series where she blurred and distorted her body. It has been suggested that Woodman’s movement was to “show you what you do not see – the body’s inner force’ (Woodman quoted in Jui-Ch’i Liu 2004, p.28), refusing to “to allow her body to be defined by the viewer’ (Jui-Ch’i Liu 2004, p.28).

Untitled 1975-80 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 (Tate 2, 2017)

In this image her foot is blurred, does she do this to avoid completely exposing herself in a portrait?

Untitled 1975-80 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 (Tate 3, 2017)

In this image Woodman’s arms are blurred as they move and her face is obscured as it looks down.

Francesca-Woodman-From-Space2-.jpg (British Journal of Photography, 2017).

As you can see her images were often blurred by long exposures and slow shutter speeds. She rarely reveals her whole self, and usually if she does not disguise herself by blurring she uses props to mask parts of her body, such as the peeling wallpaper above.  In her images the viewer is “ drawn to the emptiness around her, pushed to consider not just shape of the girl, but also her performance, her position in the portrait, her process of capturing her image, the act of photography itself” (British Journal of Photography, 2017).

Some compare her photography to Surrealist photographers, whilst others “insist she was a feminist, exploring the ways women are forced to conceal and disguise their true selves” (Salter, 2017). Reflecting on what I have seen of her work it does seem to me that her photographs are about are about showing herself but only partially, whether this is to disguise or intrigue I’m not certain.

Elina Brotherus (b1972) is a contemporary photographer who in her work “Annunciation” uses photography as an investigative tool. In the series she shows through her images her journey through IVF treatment. The title Annunciation provides an association with her difficult process becoming pregnant with the Virgin Mary’s, and certainly her images shout sorrow and loss. In fact in conversation she tells how she enjoys looking back and comparing things (The Finnish Institute in London, 2017). Brotherus says that she looks for reflections or mirror images, hiding and showing, or horizons. She believes her work is often defined by her old slow 4”by 5” viewfinder camera which needs a tripod and takes time to set up encouraging her to look carefully.

Brotherus (Boothroyd, 2016)

Gillian Wearing (b 1963) in her series Album uses masks to recreate family photos, using the original image with her behind a facial mask. She had silicone prosthetics made of her mother, father, sister, grandmother and her 17-year-old self-created (see below), and then made self-portraits while wearing them.

wearing 2 (Skidmore, 2017)

haunted_l4_z (Guggenheim, 2017).

In this Self-Portrait at Three Years Old (2004) her adult stare gazes through the eyeholes of the toddler’s mask “Wearing plays on the rift between interior and exterior and raises a multitude of provocative questions about identity, memory, and the truthfulness of the photographic medium” (Guggenheim, 2017). Wearing said “What I love about photographs is that they give you a lot and also they withhold a lot.” (Anon, 2017).

Conclusions

The work of Francesca Woodman may have become more interesting as her early death means that she is unable to answer questions about her work and her purpose remains a real enigma. I do find her images ascetically pleasing, the blurring, the shaping of her body and the variety of props and backdrops that she uses. There is obviously an element of self-indulgence in her images but I sense that this is caused by a preoccupied troubled mind rather than narcissism. I am not sure whether she is addressing issues wider than her own.

 Elina Brotherus appears self-indulgent but again for a reason and this time one that I can understand having just completed my C and N assignment 2, photographing the unseen, which was self-documentary. She is candid about her purpose in the series. Her nakedness in many of the shots I’m guessing is to symbolise the baring of her soul and possibly to intensify the vulnerability that she feels, hoping desperately to conceive. Though this work is personal I believe she is reaching out to share with the many others going through the same emotional and physical experience.

 I was able to view some of Wearing’s work at the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition “Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun : Behind the mask another mask”. It seems to me from her early polaroid “selfies” that there is an element of self-indulgence in her work. However it she has since developed this early self-consciousness into experimentation with the passage of time, identities and in particular her identity in relation to others. Wearing has said “you always feel that you are in a mask to some degree” (National Portrait Gallery wall, 2017). I found her images interesting, question provoking although not aesthetically pleasing to me. Certainly none of these photographers are afraid to use self-portraiture as a means of self-exploration which is thought provoking to their viewers, and can work at different levels without any accompanying texts.

References

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: http://“Gillian Wearing,” interview by Leo Edelstein, Journal of Contemporary Art [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Boothroyd, S (2016) Context and Narrative. Bridgeman Art Library. Barnsley.

British Journal of Photography. (2017). On Being an Angel: finding Francesca Woodman in the otherness of her self-portraits. [online] Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/01/on-being-an-angel-francesca-woodman-foam-amsterdam/ [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

Guggenheim. (2017). Gillian Wearing: Trauma and the Uncanny. [online] Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/gillian-wearing [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Jui-Ch’i Liu, ‘Francesca Woodman’s Self-Images: Transforming Bodies in the Space of Femininity’, Woman’s Art Journal, vol.25, no.1, Spring–Summer 2004, pp.26–31.
Isabella Pedicini, Francesca Woodman: The Roman Years: Between Skin and Film, Rome 2012.

Salter, K. (2017). Blurred genius: the photographs of Francesca Woodman. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/9279676/Blurred-genius-the-photographs-of-Francesca-Woodman.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Sloan Rankin, ‘Peach Mumble – Ideas Cooking’, in Hervé Chandès (ed.), Francesca Woodman, New York 1998, pp.33–7.

Tate 1. (2017). “Space², Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978”, Francesca Woodman 1975–8 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-space-providence-rhode-island-1975-1978-ar00350 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

Tate 2. (2017). Untitled, Francesca Woodman 1975–80 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-untitled-ar00357 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

Tate 3. (2017). Untitled, Francesca Woodman 1975–80 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-untitled-ar00358 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2017].

The Finnish Institute in London. (2017). Elina Brotherus and Home Truths. [online] Available at: http://www.fininst.uk/en/articles/646-elina-brotherus-and-home-truths [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Skidmore, M. (2017). The Many Selves of Gillian Wearing. [online] AnOther. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/7906/the-many-selves-of-gillian-wearing [Accessed 4 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.