Project 3 – Self-absented Portraiture

Project 3 – Self-absented Portraiture


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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