The camera I – Photographic self-portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection
The book consists of over 140 self-portraits from the nineteenth century until 1988. The photographs are from the collection of Audrey and Sidney Irmas.
In his introductory essay, Robert Sobieszek “Otherselves in photographic Self-Portraiture” meditates on the meaning and significance of self-portraiture. He suggests that as the artist and the subject are the same in self-portraiture the dynamics of viewing, interpreting and representing involve self-reflection at many levels. Interesting he asserts that:
“to achieve an honest and convincing representation of the self invariably embodies the realisation that the inner and outer are ultimately distinct, that there are at least two selves, one accessible and another hidden, and that the “I” in self-portraiture is truly comprehending an “other.”(Sobieszek, 1994).
The photographer Richard Avelon said that every portrait is a form of acting or performance and of course the self can be constructed “The self is a project, something to be built” (Susan Sontag, 1978). But self-portraits are revealing “charts of the most personal sort usually done in quiet complicity with the self” (Sobieszek, 1994).
Sobieszek explains that self-portraiture is in three parts: delineation, distortion and disguise. The delineation as the self-portrait basically records the artist on a surface level. However the artist will have altered the surface view in some way and the challenge is seeing beneath the surface. Some self-portraits don’t use the face or even the artists body, Walker Lee Evans represents himself as a shadow, Lee Friedlander as a shadow on the back of a woman (1966).
Lee Friedlander, 1966 (Tfaoi.com, 2017)
Others distort their face or their bodies such as Bernice Abbott (1945) in a mirror reflection,
(Photographie au Féminin, des femmes photographes, 2017).
Or as Bruce Nauman (1970) does with his own body.
Fracturing and multiplying the self-image are other ways of constructing the self. Anton Stankowski presents his face in a spiralling image (1937).
Sobeiszek suggests that in distorting their normal look “an inner state of mind or interior agitation may be suggested” (Sobieszek, 1994).
Herbert Bayer‘s self-portrait “Humanly impossible” (1932) which I saw the original photomontage at the Radical Eye exhibition of Sir Elton John’s photographic collection, is an amazing manipulation of photography and just fascinated me.
Henri Cartier Bression offers a self-portrait which is a fraction of his body, his side, pelvis and foot (1933), as do many other artists.
Using mirrors and reflections are other techniques employed by photographers to distort or disguise themselves in a self-portrait.
The collection of images in this book helped me to see a wide picture of self-portraits by photographers. However each one seems to give further evidence to the idea that I came across when initially researching, Trish Morrissey, Francesca Woodman, Nikki S Lee and later Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun that we all have multiple selves. It is this that I shall take into my Assignment 3: putting yourself in the picture.
Bayer, H. (2017). Herbert Bayer Auction Results – Herbert Bayer on artnet. [online] Artnet.com. Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/herbert-bayer/past-auction-results/28 [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].
Lacma.org. (2017). Imagining the Modern Self: Photographs from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection | LACMA. [online] Available at: http://www.lacma.org/art/installation/imagining-modern-self-photographs-audrey-and-sydney-irmas-collection [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].
Photographie au Féminin, des femmes photographes – Photography in the Feminine, womens photographers. (2017). A – Photographie au Féminin, des femmes photographes – Photography in the Feminine, womens photographers. [online] Available at: http://photographieaufeminin.over-blog.com/pages/A-1933627.html [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].
Pinterest. (2017). Dieter Appelt – Autoportrait (1978) (Everything and). [online] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/466615211365531994/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].
Pinterest. (2017). killerbeesting* — Robert Doisneau – Self Portrait, 1953. [online] Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/391813236303839543/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].
Sobieszak and Irmas (1994). The camera i. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Los Angeles county museum of art.
Sobieszek, R (1994) “Otherselves in photographic Self-Portraiture” in: Sobieszek and Irmas (1994). The camera i. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Los Angeles county museum of art.
Sontag, S (1978) Under the sign of Saturn. New York. Vintage books.
Tate.org.uk. (2017). Self-portrait. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/s/self-portrait [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].
Tfaoi.com. (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: http://www.tfaoi.com/am/16am/16am1.jpg [Accessed 19 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