I was initially overwhelmed as this assignment had such a wide scope; there was so much choice as far as choosing a subject, a method and even an inspiration. I looked back at the themes throughout the course. I was interested in the depictions of the self. I decided to do my version of a self-portrait.
Francesca Woodman was born in Denver, Colorado in 1958. She started taking photographs when she was 13. She committed suicide when she was 22 years old in New York. Between the years of 1975 and 1977, Woodman attended the Rhode Island School of Design. A lot of her images taken in this time are believed to be work for her college work.
I also looked into Gillian Wearing’s work. Wearing took self-portraits using familial impersonation. By doing this Wearing is attempting to explore her own personality and identity. I liked her idea of using masks to take a self-portrait.
I used natural lighting from the bathroom window for this assignment. I wanted to convey emotion through the images. I used composite imaging to create the desired effect.
Making It Up
Construct a stand-alone image of your choice. Alternatively, you may choose to make a series, elaborating on the same theme.
For this assignment, I was required to ‘make-up’ an image. I began by looking at the works of Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson and seeing how they construct an image. Their images have a deeper meaning, verging on psychological and going into the unknown. I wanted to produce an image that made the viewer think and maybe connect with the message of the image. I didn’t want an image that was too complicated, for example both Wall and Crewdson’s work contain a lot of detail, a lot of props and a lot of space. I find sometimes this works but I do prefer an image that is ‘uncluttered’.
I looked at their images and they all had something that you could relate to, something psychological, even if it was a feeling that the viewer could relate to. I wanted to explore an emotion or a feeling that people could relate to.
I began looking at Gilliam Wearing’s images and I liked that idea of the use of masks. This got me thinking that everyone put on a ‘mask’ to others. You cannot tell what the person is going through if they don’t show or tell you. A mask could be in the form of make-up or just smiling even when you’re hurting inside. Many people go through depression or anxiety but some hid it, they hid behind a mask, a mask visible to the world around them.
I looked at Francesca Woodman’s images, in particular the Space2 series. I liked the idea of using mirrors, and showing two sides of the person, one in the reflection and on in the person. I decided to use two images to do this, and make a composite image.
The setting I used was a bathroom, I chose this as many people use the bathroom to get ready in and it is somewhere that they could be on their own, and not somewhere where they have to pretend but somewhere where they make the transition. Bathrooms tend to be fairly clinical looking, from the colours to the lighting. The colours are bright white and sterile, from the tiles to the bath. The only lighting used was from the window behind the bath and the overhead light. I also noticed the shapes, from the lines on the tiles, to the lines on the wall in the reflections, to the shape of the mirrors.
For the first image, I wanted very little in it, so all you can see is the bath, the mirror and the person. It also gives the impression of being claustrophobic and alone, a feeling that many feel. The person is me; this was effectively a self-portrait. I choose to wear a dress, with my hair done and make-up on, showing that perhaps I was going to a party or a formal event, something that should make you happy and excited. In contrast, the reflection has no make-up on, my hair is not done, and I am wearing normal dark clothing. The positioning on the floorshows something is wrong; my head is cast downwards slightly, emphasized by the angle of the camera. But the reflection shows the feeling.
The next two images, I take the image face on with two different mirrors. One has a reflection of me with my back towards the camera; Woodman’s image was definitely a big influence here.
The last features a round mirror, with the reflection facing the camera.
I decided to do three images, as I was inspired by Triptych, where three images work together, usually a main image in the center and two either side.
To capture this image, I set my camera on a tripod and used a remote to take the image. I decided to change the image to black and white as it shows more emotion and I find that sometimes colour can be a distraction.
Here are my final images.
I was very proud of this assignment, and my tutors’ feedback made it worthwhile. She stated that this was my strongest work so far, and had great potential. This was a real confidence boost. She was very interested that I had looked into Francesca Woodman’s work and could see real influences ion hers in mine. For presenting this work I used the idea of triptych, I did do research into it and saw it usually has religious meanings but I liked the idea of using three images in one, but I can understand my tutors comments.
My tutor raised an interesting point about doing the image partially in black and white and the rest in colour; I will definetly look into this for the rework.
I decided not to rework this assignment too much, as I was happy with the overall result and the feedback I had received. I did edit the fingers so the composite image looked a bit better. My tutor raised a point about why I did not keep the main part of the image, the party girl, in colour and the reflection in black and white.
The main reason was because the part with the depressed part was quite small and even in colour it looked black and white due to the surrounding colours. Overall I preferred the lot of the whole image in black and white, I found it joined together better and looked more pleasing to the eye.
Here are the final images.