Part Three – Putting yourself in the picture

Part Three – Putting yourself in the picture

Project 1 – Autobiographical Self-Portraiture

Exercise

 Reflect on the pieces of work discussed in the project in your learning log and do some further research of your own. 

  • 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 and outsider without accompanying text?
  • Do you think and of these artists are addressing wider issues beyond the purely personal?

Make some notes in your learning log. 

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; Space2 could be one such work. In 1976 she photographed for her project Space2. She worked in her studio, which was a room above a store in Rohde Island called Pilgrim Mills. The room was unfurnished and unheated. She used a square-format camera. All her images for this projects are self-portraits. Woodman would experiment with the shutter speeds and the lighting to create a sense of movement in different parts of her body. One image where this is very noticeable is this one:

Space?, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 1975-8 by Francesca Woodman 1958-1981

She has a strong stance and appears to be lunging forward, everything fro her legs upwards is blurry. Peggy Phelan, a feminist scholar believes that Woodman’s movement is an ‘essential aspects of her self-portraits’. Jus-Ch’i Liu, who is a Professor at the National Yang-Ming University, stated that ‘the blurs dissolve corporeal boundaries and register Woodman’s refusal to allow her body to be defined by the viewer’. She was able to create art out of a bare room and herself. She did not use any studio lighting, she relied on the light from the windows or the room lights. Her images focus on her own identity and offer glimpses of her personality. Even today, the meaning behind her images is debated. Some see Woodman as a feminist, however her father, George Woodman stated, that “Francesca did not see herself as a feminist”. Cindy Sherman, who is a well-known American photographer, did not believe she was a feminist, and “She used herself organically, not to make a statement”.

I can see why people may believe that Woodman’s photographs are self-indulgent, as it appears that she focused on herself and her own identity. But a friend of her asked why she photographed herself obsessively and she answered “It’s a matter of convenience, I am always available”. So I do not think Woodman saw it as being self-indulged. I believed she was experimenting and exploring her own identity. People tend to label Woodman’s work as narcissistic. The definition of narcissism is an “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity”. I personally do not think her work is narcissistic.

The use of nudity in Woodman’s images is artistic. The problem is there are many images taken by men of women naked and called art, but not that many images taken by a women of a naked women. There is a huge difference in the way the photograph is approached and the subject is treated. These images tend to show the truth. To Woodman nudity is just being unclothed. Identity can be seen through clothing, so by removing it your identity changes. The nakedness in her photographs seems to represent sexuality but also innocence. The use of the mirrors in her images could relate to Jacques Lacan’s Mirror Phase. She could be just comfortable with her body and didn’t mind showing it off. She often obscures her face or covers part of her body, this could be seen as hiding from her point of view. Her images may represent her feelings and problems she was having, she could have been using photography as a coping method. Chris Townsend stated “Woodman’s self-portraits demonstrate an awareness that the genre is as much concerned with how representation is effected as it is with offering supposedly profound truths about the artist who effects that representation” (Townsend). I believe her images do address wider issues other than issues on a personal level. I find her images thought provoking and mysterious. But also suggestive, due to the way her face is obscured or the way in which she is positioned it allows the viewer to come to their own conclusion.

Elina Brotherus is a finish photographer, who went to the university of art and design, and afterwards did a residency in France. She photographs herself and uses events that have happened to her as inspiration for her images, this could also be seen as a coping method. In the Q&A sessions during a talk Brotherus gave to OCA students, one of the students asked where she would put some else in the picture instead of her self. Her answer was no, because she is telling her own story and it wouldn’t work with some else. She uses an example of when she was having IVF and took a photograph of the pregnancy test; she said it just wouldn’t work with some else. This also gave me the impression that all her photographs are personal and emotional. Her work Annunciation looks at her experiences whilst having IVF treatment. She is addressing a subject, infertility, which many still see as a taboo. Annunciation represents the false annunciations. She says its like waiting for the angel who never shows up. It is a very personal subject for Brotherus and she still finds it too upsetting to give interviews about. She states that she finds it as a way to distance herself through her photographs, but I find they have a way of connecting with the viewer; as many of the subjects and emotions she shows are things we all face and can all relate to.

In Model Studies, Brotherus uses nudity in her images. Looking at her images I do not find the use of nudity a representation of art but more a personal view. In Model Studies, she did not want to create a ‘psychological’ portrait but she wanted to show the subject as a thing to investigate. She sees the person in the photographs as a model, similar to ones in paintings. She wants to investigate the ‘external properties’ not the ‘inner properties’. Similar to Woodman, Brotherus obscures her face in the majority of the images. I believe her images could be classed as self-indulgent as she is focusing on herself. I do not think her images are narcissistic either as she is using herself in the images because she is telling her story and with someone else in the image it wouldn’t work.

Model-Study-5Model-Study-8Model-Study-10

Susan Bright is an Australian writer and curator, who have specialized in photographing the representation of pregnancy and motherhood. Bright’s work Home Truths: Motherhood and Photography challenges the changes of autobiographical approaches to online photography and the view of the mother in our culture. In her book, Bright looks at history of the representation of the mother in art. She notes that there was a shift due to the work of Mary Kelly. Before this the main representation was in the form of paintings like the Madonna and Child. In 1974 Mary Kelly created a body of work called Primapara. It was in this work that showed the differences between the way a man would photograph and how a woman would photograph. More and more photographers are exploring this area, such as Harry Callahan, Imogen Cunningham, Tina Modotti and Barbara Morgan. Kinderwunsch is a series by the photographer Ana Cassa Broda. Broda decided to document the process of having her second born child. Elinor Carucci is another photographer who has photographed this topic. She documented her pregnancy and carried on until her twins eight birthday. I like this series as it shows the emotional development and bond between the twins and their mother. Susan Hiller took photographs of herself everyday during her pregnancy. She didn’t intend to create a body of work from the images but she decided to let them show how her body changed, specifically her stomach during her pregnancy. She stated that her stomach was “the section of the body you couldn’t talk about, the pregnant part”. I believe Susan Bright is addressing a wider issue. Whilst gender roles have changed there is still some aspects, which are ‘hidden’. In an interview Bright stated “I thought, oh my god, this celebrity mum phenomenon, it’s everywhere. I wanted to see what people were doing in critical terms, in fine art…it just needed the space to be shown and talked about. It was still quite the taboo subject, and that’s ridiculous” (Bright).

Sally Mann is an American photographer born in 1951. One of her projects involved photographing her family. Which included images of her children playing naked. She produced 65 photographs in black and white, the images included the children swimming, reading, napping, and playing. Her photographs deal with other themes as well such as injury, insecurity and sexuality. Some critics have said her work is an example of child pornography, but Mann says when she was growing up she would often play naked. This is how she has raised her children.

Sally_Mann_Family_Pictures_09sally_mann_family_pictures_10Sally_Mann_Family_Pictures_06

Tierney Gearon created a project called I Am A Camera, which features images of her children often naked. Her images are not posed but do contain props, which she has added. Gearon attempts to show the line between childhood and adulthood and how it changes.

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Gilliam Wearing took self-portraits using familial impersonation. By doing this Wearing is attempting to explore her own personality and identity.

Mann and Gearon’s images of their children naked are just images of their children growing up, due to culture, the way someone’s been brought up or even where you live, this may be a common sight. I believe it is unfair for people to say Mann’s work is pornography, as she is showing it as art. But there is a problem with how the viewer perceives the images.

I believe it depends on the image, if it can work without text. If the image or the intent is unclear, text is helpful. Without it the viewer must draw their own conclusions. So if the artist is trying to convey a certain message, I believe that accompanying text is helpful. But it is nice to be able to look at a photograph and draw your own conclusions from it.


A Place Called Space. Francesca Woodman. [Online]. <a-place-called-space.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/Francesca-woodman.html> [Accessed: 15th April 2016].

Bright, S & Stephanie Chapman (2013). Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood. London: Art Books.

British Journal of Photography. The Mother. [Online]. <www.bjp-online.com/2013/10/the-mother/> [Accessed: 13th of April 2016].

Curating Photography. Susan Bright Independent Curator of Photography, New York. [Online]. <photocurating.net/?p=65> [Accessed: 18th April 2016].

Daily Serving. Gillian Wearing Wearing a Mask of Gillian Wearing. [Online]. <www.dailyserving.com/gillian-wearing-wearing-a-mask-of-gillian-wearing/> [Accessed: 19th of April 2016].

Dictionary.com. Narcissism. [Online]. <www.dictionary.com/browse/narcissism> [Accessed: 12th April 2016].

Elina Brotherus. Elina Brotherus in conversation with Birgit Eusterschutte. [Online]. www.elinabrotherus.com/assets/pdf/interviews/eusterschutte_conver_en_05_pdf/ [Accessed: 13th April 2016].

Gearon, T. I Am A Camera. [Online]. <www.tierneygearon.com/exhibitions/i-am-a-camera/> [Accessed: 18th of April 2016].

Lacan, J & Bruce Fink. (2004). Ecrits: A Selection. London: W. W. Norton & Company.

Liss, A. (2009) Feminist Art and the Maternal. USA. University of Minnesota Press.

Liu, J, (2004) Francesca Woodman’s Self-Images: Transforming Bodies in the Space of Femininity. Woman’s Art Journal, Vol. 25 (no. 1), pp. 26-31.

Mann, S. About. [Online]. <sallymann.com/about/> [Accessed: 17th Of April 2016].

OCA. Forum. [Online]. <www.oca-student.com/content/photographerstalking?page=1#comment-72335> [Accessed: 15th March 2016].

Pedicini, I. Francesca Woodman: The Roman Years: Between Skin and Film, Rome 2012.

Phelan, P, (2002) Francesca Woodman’s Photography: Death and the image one more time, Signs. Vol. 27 (no. 4), p.p. 979-1004.

Slash. Elina Brotherus Annonuciation. [Online]. <slash-paris.com/en/evenments/elina-brotherus-annonciation> [Accessed: 16th of April 2016].

Tate. Space2, Providence, Rhode Island. [Online]. <www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-space2-providence-rhose-island-1975-1978-ar00350/text-summary> [Accessed: 14th April 2016].

The Telegraph. Francesca Woodman: eerie visions from a life cut short. The Telegraph. [Online]. <www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/8130041/Francesca-Woodman-eerie-visions-from-a-life-cut-short.html> [Accessed: 12th April 2016].


Project 2 – Masquerades

 Exercise

 Is there any why 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? Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day at the beach with your family? If not, why not? 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. 

Nikki S. Lee is a Korean photographer born in 1970. She adopted an American name when she moved to American in 1994. Her real name is Lee Seung-Hee. She is a graduate of the University of Korea and also the University of New York, where she gained a Masters degree in 1999. Her photographs have been exhibited in several museums across the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenholm Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Los Angeles Museum of Art. Her photography looks at identity and how it is an individual thing but also subject to constant changes due to society and relationships.

Lee immerses herself in different cultures in order to photograph them. She observes the group from a far. Then, she changes her clothes and her style to conform to their group and then approaches them. She tries to become one of them. She stays with them for a few weeks and she photographs them or has someone else photograph her with them during this time. Lee tries is become an insider by becoming and behaving like one of them. Whilst this may be useful in the short term, I do not believe it is enough to fully understand the groups’ culture. She spends weeks with them, dresses like them and behaves like them but this does not necessarily make her one of them, she is still an outsider trying to photograph a group. There is a big difference in being an insider or an outsider as it changes how we view the people around us. I can see what Lee is trying to do but I am still a bit dubious as to weather it helps her photographs.

In an interview with The Creators Project, when asked about the theme of identity in her work she stated, “Well, all of my work so far has required the active participation of people. I think that’s mostly because I like to work with the idea of identity and my views towards it. I think the other people were important for me to identify my own identity, within the relationships with these people. In Buddhism there is a saying that goes something like “I can be someone else and that someone else can be me as well”. Thoughts like this are thoughts that cause you to view yourself in other people’s shoes were my main focus. So the people play a significant role” (Lee).

When asked weather the Projects was about Lee or the people, she stated that they were about her. So going by this interview, she is commenting on her own identity and how her relationship with others affects it.

The definition of Voyeuristic is “A person who derives sexual gratification from observing the naked bodies or sexual acts of others, especially from a secret vantage point”. Going by the definition I do not think Lee’s photographs are voyeuristic. The definition of Exploitative is “Exploiting or tending to exploit; especially unfairly or cynically using another person or group for profit or advantages”. I would say Lee’s work is slightly exploitative. Even though she is commenting on her own identity using various groups to do so, she is using them to do so.

nl_hiphopnl_hispanic25schoolgirls5

Trish Morrissey is an Irish photographer. Her work Seven Years ‘aims to deconstruct the trope of family photography by meticulously mimicking it’. When I first looked at this series, I though Morrissey was recreating childhood memories but on further research I do not think this is the case instead she has created new images from her childhood. She named this series after the gap in age between herself and her elder sister. Morrissey uses clothing from the 70s and 80s and props, to give the images an authentic look. But to me I find them too controlled and too ‘posed’ to be what Morrissey describes as ‘snapshots’. The images included at the beach, a birthday party and standing by a car with L-plates.

April-16th-1984January-25th-1979July-14th-1974July-22nd-1972October-1st-1987September-4th-1972

Another work by Morrissey is called The Failed Realist. On her website, it states the reasoning behind this project, “Between the ages of four to six children are often more verbally than visually articulate.  This means that what they wish to express through mark making is often beyond their physical skill. The psychologist Georges-Henri Luquet (1927/2001) called this The Failed Realist stage – the child’s desire to represent his or her world is hampered by motor, cognitive and graphic obstacles that will be overcome with time, but for the moment, their interpretation is flawed.  These drawings are uncorrupted by representational conventions.  The Romantic artists thought this was a reflection of direct access to the expressive self and strove for a return to this innocence in their own painting.  Later on, painters of the modernist movement, such as Picasso, Miro, and Klee saw the drawings of children with their mixed perspectives and exaggerated features as a pure way of seeing.  Picasso famously said ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child’. This photographic series was made in collaboration with my daughter when she was between the ages of four and five years. Face painting is a rainy day activity that we both enjoy.  Once her 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.  Beyond the innocence of the child’s intention, more sinister themes such as clowns, carnival and the grotesque are evoked by these mask like paintings”. I like her reasoning behind this project but I am unsure of the project as a whole.

BitzerLadybirdPretty-Ogre

In her project Front Morrissey took pictures of families at the beach, in which she would replace one of the people in the picture. She took the pictures at Kingsgale Bay, Kent in June 2006. She wanted to explore how the ‘shoreline acts as a border between land, which represents culture and order; and sea, which is nature and chaos’. Whilst they are family photographs they are ‘fake family pictures’ which feature Morrissey herself who has taken over one of the roles in the family by wearing an item of their clothing and assuming their place. Morrissey didn’t pose the family she kept it natural to how to would be.

Sylvia-WestbrookHayley-ColesDonna-PlantRacheal-HobsonLou-SoucellDeborah-BastwickChloe-GwynneKatyMcDonnellJune-MarshAngela-ReynishHeather-Hancock

I am not sure weather I would agree to Morrissey request of photographing my family. For me, I do not like photographs being taken of myself so there is an element of self-consciousness. But if the rest of my family agreed then I would do it. I can understand however if people did refuse as to can seem like an odd request. Morrisey may see her images as art whereas other people may not see it. Families on beach often have children; nowadays there is always caution when photographing peoples children. People may be more willing for Morrissey to take their photographs, as she is a woman, as there seems to be a level of trust, more so than you may feel with a male photographer. The other reason is that she did not use a compact or similar camera; she used a large format camera, which has a professional look to it. In one of her photos, she is cuddling someone else’s child, if this was my child I would feel uncomfortable with someone else cuddling them.


Dictionary. Exploit. {Online}. <www.dictionary.com/browse/exploitative> [Accessed: 20th April 2016].

Morrissey, T. Front Statement. [Online]. < http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-front/workpg-01.html> [Accessed: 17th April 2016].

Morrissey, T. Seven Years Statement. [Online] <www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/worksy/statement.html> [Accessed: 16th April 2016].

Morrissey, T. The Failed Realist Statement. [Online]. <http://www.trishmorrissey.com/works_pages/work-tfr/statement.html> [Accessed: 16th April 2016].

Museum of Contemporary Photography. Artist: Lee, Nikki S. [Online]. <www.mocp.org/detail.php?=objects&type=browse&f=marker&s=Lee%2C+Nikki+S.&record=1> [Accessed: 15th April 2016].

Oxford Dictionaries. Voyeur. [Online]. <www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/voyeur> [Accessed: 20th April 2016].

The Creators Project. Nikki S. Lee. [Online]. <thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk/show/nikki-s-lee> [Accessed: 15th April 2016].

The Free Dictionary by Farlex. Voyeuristic. [Online] <www.thefreedictionart.com/voyeuristic> [Accessed: 20th April 2016].

The Guardian. Trish Morrissey’s best photograph infiltrating a family on a Kent beach. The Guardian. [Online] <www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jan/23/trish-morrissey-best-shot/> [Accessed: 16th April 2016].

Tonkonow, L. Nikki S. Lee. [Online]. <http://www.tonkonow.com/lee_projects_6.html&gt; [Accessed: 20th of April 2016].


Exercise 

For this exercise I was required to recreate a childhood memory through photography. I had trouble deciding on a childhood memory to start with, but eventually I settled on Christmas. I remember each year helping put the decorations on the tree, it was my favourite part of the lead up to Christmas, something I looked forward too. Here is my images recreating that memory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wanted the lights on the tree to reflect on the decorations, I think it gives the image a warm look to it. For the second image, I used an aperture of f/22, and held the shutter open for 30 seconds in order to create the starburst effect on the lights.


Project 3 – Self-absented Portraiture

 Exercise 

Go to the artist’s website and look at the other images in Shafran’s series. 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? In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image? What does this series achieve by not including people? Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions? Make some notes in your learning log. 

Nigel Shafran is a British photographer, who started out in the fashion industry in the 1980s. During the 1990s, he decided to take a more personal approach to his photography by photographing things from his personal life. Shafran has had exhibitions at the Saatchi gallery, the Tate, the Geffrey Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Personal photographs can provide a lot of information about the photographer, for example their habits, the objects they keep and use. It gives a useful insight into their lifestyle.

In 2000, Shafran created a piece of work called Washing Up. The photographs in this work comprise of pictures of Shafran’s kitchen, in particular the sink area. The pictures have no people only objects in them, which change in each photograph. The pictures were taken at different times of day, which can be seen by the lighting, the atmosphere and he shadows. The items that have been washed up changes in every photograph. You can see pots, dishes, pans, bottles, cutlery and washing up utensils. Part way through the series the kitchen changes.

The images were supposed to have accompanying text, but I couldn’t find these anywhere, not even on his website. I believe this is a majority draw back of this work. Without the accompanying text, the viewer can remain clueless of what the photographer is trying to convey. In my opinion, the accompanying text would have been very useful for Shafran’s work.

When I first looked at this series, I didn’t see the point in it. To me it was just pictures of someone’s kitchen, not art. I found the individual images quite boring and I found it hard to see it as art. But when I looked at them in a series, I found myself understanding it more, and I was able to see a clear narrative, which is the photographer. Even though Shafran is absent from the images, you can see traces of him in the pictures. At first, I thought the images were boring, but upon closer inspection they are fairly interesting. As they were all taken at different times, the lighting and the shadows change, the viewer is able to see what effect the time has on the pictures, the pictures are not overly complicated. Shafran’s pictures have many layers to them. Looking at this series, gives the viewer a look into Shafran’s life.

I am not surprised that a man took these photographs. To me there are no restrictions in photography. There is nothing to say a certain gender would photograph a certain theme. For Washing Up, it shows a very domestic household task, that people of a certain generation may see it as women’s work. But in recent times, gender roles in the house have become blurred. It is no longer traditional for the woman to do the work in the home, you often find men doing the same tasks as well. I feel though the answer to this question would be influenced by someone’s personal view on gender equality.

In general, I do not think gender contributes to the creation of an image in general photography. There are themes in which I believe that are more gender orientated, for example, a woman is more likely to photograph things to do with pregnancy and childbirth. Whereas a man may be more likely to photograph war and fighting, as being in the forces is still a male dominated job even though women are allowed in. But I believe that it doesn’t matter on the gender of the photographer, as the photographer is portraying their message.

I think by omitting people from the image it achieves a lot. When an image has people in it they become the focus. Whereas without them the viewer can concentrate on other specific details of the photographs. The thing with Washing Up, even though there are no people the subject of the photograph is still the people.

As I said previously, I wasn’t sure on this series, but on reflection I do not see this work as still life compositions. I see it more of a self-portraiture series for Shafran.001washing_up002washing_up003washing_up004washing_up011washing_up


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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