Niki South Student number: 514516
Drawing upon the examples in Part Three and your own research, you can approach your self-portraits however you see fit. You may choose to explore your identity or masquerade as someone else, or use empty locations or objects to speak of your experiences. However you choose to approach it, use yourself – directly or indirectly – as subject matter.
Keep a diary for a set period of time (at least two weeks). Each day write two or three pages about yourself – what you’ve been doing/thinking. This can be as specific or poetic as you wish. You may wish to pick a theme for the duration. This is an open brief designed to give you freedom to create something personal which suits you best. Use the artists you’ve looked at in Part three or your own research for inspiration.
Select the most interesting parts of the diary (which could also be the most banal or mundane) and interpret them into a photographic project. You don’t have restrict yourself to the diary itself; you may decide to use it to take you into new territory.
Send your finished piece to your tutor by the method agreed together with an introduction of around 300 words briefly setting out your rationale and how you approached this project.
“THE HIDDEN ME”
This assignment was a challenge as I avoid being photographed; however I resolved to keep an open mind until I had completed the exercises. I discovered through the directed research that self-portraiture was extremely varied, and the project became more interesting as I began to understand how photographers (initially Francesca Woodman and Elina Brotherus) used it confidently as self-exploration. A turning point for me was the exhibition “Behind the mask, another mask” (National Portrait Gallery, 2017). Their examinations of identity through their images of their multiple selves, as well as their commentaries and quotations such as “You always feel that you are the mask to some degree” (Wearing, 2012), caused me to ponder on my own identity and how I am made of multiple selves.
On rereading my diary, I was struck that though it contained a series of events, sporting, travelling social and domestic, it didn’t reveal the real me, only how I operate on the surface. I then reflected on the hidden me not revealed in my diary. I decided to represent four of these hidden selves in my images: The Organiser, The Escapist, The Peacemaker and The Lover. I expect that The Organiser is easily understood. The Escapist represents how I make space for myself amongst meeting the needs of others. The three peace lilies in The Peacemaker image symbolise members of my family and how I try to pour oil on troubled waters and hold them close. The Lover image is a visualisation of my mood and senses through colour and texture. My intention is to reveal increasing glimpses beneath the surface as the viewer moves through the series, I hope that I have built narrative meaning, despite some elements remaining obscure and personal to me.
The project took me out of my comfort zone, performing is not natural to me, and the shooting was challenging as I composed and then recomposed myself in the frame. In retrospect I may have lost myself in the performing slightly at the expense of some technical aspects; I hope I’ve addressed this somewhat in my final submission by reshooting “The peacemaker” in a purer light and reprocessing “The organiser” to improve the colour balance.
Ultimately I enjoyed exploring and expressing my identity and hope that it manifests as self-portraiture with a sense of ownership as I truly think that “the “I” in self- portraiture is truly comprehending an “other” (Sobieszek? 1978).
National Portrait Gallery (2017) Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask. London. National Portrait Gallery.
Sobieszek, R (1978) “Other selves in photographic Self-Portraiture” in: Sobieszek and Irmas (1994). The camera i. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Los Angeles county museum of art.
Wearing, G (2012) on the wall at: National Portrait Gallery (2017) Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask. London. National Portrait Gallery.