Self-portraiture is something one should never get involved in, since it is wrong to lie even though one endeavors to tell the truth. – Ingmar Bergman
This post continues on the lines from my previous piece about the power & control relationship between photographer and model; that questioned the photographers’ hesitation of being in front of the camera. So with self-portraiture, you guessed it, it’s all about me, me and me. Well with the inclusion of some other points and artists on this subject.
I thought it prudent to put my money where my mouth is and ‘bare all’ so to speak with the title image. This however was not always easy, as typically a few years ago I detested my picture being taken; if it happened, I usually pulled them to bits making harsh negative comments on my physical attributes. Any given situation I always questioned peoples motive for wanting to take my picture; I’m not that good looking and I’m about as wooden as a Gandolfi, so why would they?
Gradually when I started facing someone’s camera I began questioning the power balance of giving them that control over me. It was not the direct act of them controlling me, as the power play can be quite intoxicating, it was only that I wanted it to be all about me! I became selfish, wanting to show off and become the star and the only way I was going to achieve that was to be both behind and in front of the camera. Luckily, cable releases, IR triggers and an abundance of patience could easily solve this paradoxical line of thinking.
So please see the image of myself taken in 2012 that was my loosing* entry into a photographic portrait competition. When this image was taken it was a poignant moment for me as I had gone through a life changing weight loss mission in which I shed 9 stone over a five year period. The act of photographing myself was to get visual proof to reflect upon and celebrate this achievement. Also I wanted to show off what can be done with hard work and a logical approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
In total contrast I am pulled towards the honesty, strength and integrity of Haley Morris-Cafiero’s work in which she examines societies reaction to her size in quite a familiar tone we all may have expressed at some point. Love it…
*See fellow OCA Photography Tutor Sharon Boothroyd’s post on losing in a portrait competition in which there are some great points and insightful truths.
On a side note, it is interesting how the act and in some ways the associated artefacts that are present in artists self-portraits; from painters depicting themselves in front of a canvas with an easel to photographers taking a picture perhaps in front of a mirror with their camera as an extension of themselves. Is this a requirement to prove to the viewer who they are and what they do?
I ask now, why produce a self-portrait; is it to construct another identity in which to provide a sense of externalisation. Or do we create these images to see a perceived idealised version or ourselves? With no uncertainty, one psychological characteristic that goes hand-in hand within all self-portraiture is that of narcissism. Maybe it is this that drives us to show off and attempt to visualise an outward appearance that is not our own. Could the very conscious act of self-portraiture create a falsehood through causality, inherently crafting these lies that we cannot see through our own familiar figures?
To be concluded in ‘The Selfie’