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.
A good way to approach selection could be to ask a friend/fellow student/stranger to
read it and send back a highlighted version. You could then base your project on those
parts. This would take the pressure off you to find a ‘good story’.
You may choose to select a few days or phrases that spark an idea for you, or you may
wish to exaggerate how you were feeling one day into a parody of yourself or the
circumstance. You may wish to create a ‘document’ of that time in a re-creation of events
– or direct a model to act out some of the content of the diary, making your own ‘film-
You could present your chosen diary entries as a visual diary or use it as a springboard
for further exploration. You may choose to insert the pictures like snapshots into your
diary and hand it all in together. 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. You should also send to your tutor the relevant pages of your
learning log or blog url.
[20Feb20 in a pub] I consciously took a more organized approach to the assignments in C&N, having concluded that their completion and submission is the key to completing the course. Accordingly, I have pencilled-in possible approaches to each of them from the outset.
For self-portraiture, my to initial ideas were:
1, to be strongly influenced by John Coplans, but I have already used this in Asg.1,
2. To recreate some of the SPs of some well-known photographers shown on my page. I will go with this idea, Those already identified are Bill Brandt with his police camera (as it turns out, this was not a SP, but never mind;
Stanley Kubrick's youthful study using a large mirror;
Álvarez Bravo's self-effacing SP.
To this can be added Avedon's photo booth image and I'll find a few others.
The assignment brief calls for a two-week diary to be kept as a starting point for this project.
I will have to cheat on this instruction and reconstruct a retrospective, episodic diary showing how this idea developed.
[21Mar] conceptual development transferred to the diary page until today, when the first photography took place.
I have not used the Fuji 100S for a while. 20 shots taken, some on (what I still call) motor drive, all of 3fps on the Fuji and some on 3 shot 1 stop bracket. At first sitting on the bed then, to get closer, sitting on a chair squeezed between the bed and the mirror. All on f/2 to de-emphasise the background. Shot in colour but only because I didn't think to switch on mono.
My first outcome, fig.B2, created from the last three shots HDR'ed in Affinity is rather good, although it made me think of Vivian Maier rather than Stanley Kubrick. Having added a Maier above (fig. B3) , I'm not sure why that was the case. There is a great gallery of Maier self portraits here: she really was terrific.
I'll play with some more images from today (figs. B4, B5) and run another shoot and — shave; straighten my tie; have the chair further from the mirror to get more in and to get the camera in focus too; take the picture down; maybe close the door - or perhaps not that last. And consider adding something interesting and distracting in the background (the cat was snoozing on the bed but, for once, did not join in).
Final conclusion of the day - continue to bracket.
I had always thought that fig. C1 was the full image. It was only when I looked for a copy to print and take up the garden to shoot from this morning that I realised the full original was as fig. C2. No matter, I stayed with the original plan of putting a mirror in the window of the garden shed and imitating C1. The image of me is less clear than anticipated because the window is dirtier than Álvarez Bravo's, but I quite like the effect and may stick on this version - if I cleaned it, the spider web would have to go.
Fig. C3 is a full frame 3-shot HDR bracket from B&W.
C4 is a crop of C3.
C5 and C6 are crops from single, RAW, colour images.
C7, later that day, after further nurdling in Affinity (HDR) and Photoshop (Nik). That's the keeper.
Let's take a moment away from the practicalities of taking these photographs and consider the act of self-portraiture and in particular the issue of authorship.
Bright and van Erp (2019, pp. 149-152) deal with self-portraiture largely in the context of the contemporary social media selfie, usually taken in conformance with (gradually evolving) norms in order to gain acceptance and recognition within a group. This is contrasted with the 'traditional self-portrait' which was (and is) often made to establish or emphasise individuality.
b: 1963 Croydon Tate - Wikipedia Box D
Tracey Emin, Outside Myself (Monument Valley)
The example of Tracey Emin's Outside Myself (Monument Valley), fig. D1, is considered.
In 1994 Emin, accompanied by her then boyfriend Carl Freedman, drove from San Francisco to New York, stopping to read from her book Exploration of the Soul which she delivered from an armchair taken for that purpose (Emin inherited the chair from her grandmother and had decorated it with sayings they shared and other text). The photograph is of one of those readings and it was taken by Freedman.
In many instances it does not matter who pressed the button, as it is the artist who has conceived the idea, and to whom credit must thus be given
Bright and van Erp , p.152
The same consideration applies to some of Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, where friends photographed the outdoors shots (MoMA [i]). Questions of authorship might also apply to the Bill Brandt image (fig. E1) where, although the portrait (that I originally mistook for a mirror self-portrait) is attributed to the photographer Laelia Goehr, the conception could have been Brandt's.
I wanted to address this point, knowing that I would be shooting after Brandt the next day and anticipating (incorrectly, as it turned out) that I would not be pressing the shutter.
Readers may recall that I ordered square prints of several sizes of a doctored image (sourced from a French dealer) of Bill Brandt's police camera when printing Asg.1. The 12x12 print was stuck to cardboard yesterday and deployed today.
I used the Canon G5X because it has a reversible screen for selfies, nevertheless, although I managed to get the hands the right way round, I was looking in the wrong direction. No matter.
I assumed that I would feature Mrs. B on shutter control (hence the discussion of authorship), but I made do with the 10 second delay timer on the triple shot setting.
The first takes on the JPGs look quite successful with an application of Nik Silver Efex filters and then the colour filter for the grain and border. I think E3, but a little lighter might run. And try for some eye detail.
The high-contrast, grainy look is intended to echo some of Brandt's later work. I notice one cardboard edge is visible on the 'camera': I could claim that this is intentionally deconstructionist but that would not be accurate.
fig. E3 reworked
[27Mar] I have reworked fig. E3 from Raw and disguised the cardboard edge (fig. F1). That will do for now. I believe it is the best of the three efforts so far (Kubrick, Brave and Brandt). I would still like to brighten the eyes, though.
Here's a lesson an eye brightening (Patterson [ii])
The Corbyn mask was too big: I could have scanned and reduced it, but just went with Starmer (fig. G4) and Avedon (fig. G5). It is difficult to take a photograph with just the right amount of lack of focus - I should have taken it in focus and then adjusted in post-processing. Nevertheless, they were pretty successful
I reshot the Kubrick (fig. G7) paying more attention to the background - a Missing Mondrian and accessorised De Stijl tie.
[3Apr] I had my Asg.2 tutorial this morning and this reminded be that I should be putting more thought and research into these assignments. The comments above on Bright & van Erp, Emin, Sherman and Brandt go a considerable way to justify and contextualise my approach to the assignment, but I would like to broaden my consideration to what might have been.
I have already mentioned Vivian Maier as a possible target. I took down Sylvie Weil's idiosyncratic Selfies (iii) from the bookshelf (fig. H1) and found one of Maier's finest S-Ps on the cover (fig. H2). Weil writes (in the Ros Schwarz translation),
She must have 'cheated' a little, and the photo is probably less spontaneous than it appears; the photographer must have asked the man to stand still for a moment…
I would have photographed myself standing in front of a large mirror being carried by two men wearing caps, seen in profile,
Sylvie Weil, Self-portraits in fugitive mirrors, Selfies, 2019, p.127-8
That led me to think of any number of silent films and subsequent comedies using the motif of two men with a large sheet of glass and the Harry Worth sketch in a shop window (fig. H3)
Given today's tutorial and the discussions on security cameras, a modern take on this would be a selfie on a security screen - Lidl's in Bromley have recently installed quite large monitor screens on each self-checkout till and they would be ideal for this purpose. This raises the question,
I wonder how long we students will be able to deploy the excuse, 'well that's what I would have photographed, were it not for virus restrictions'. I am currently in debt to the tune of one shot of the Crown Jewels for Asg.2 and now one shot on the security cameras in Lidl's Bromley for Asg.3. I'll keep a log in the blog.
Reshot in two sessions today after cleaning the window (well, rearranging the muck, really). Early when the window was still wet and again later. Bracketed both times. The last two without the mirror in place.
I am still not particularly satisfied with the outcome in terms of the clarity of the reflection, though they are better than the first round. A second clean might be needed and wait for it to dry. Use the mirror.
[5Apr] Thoughts have turned to presentation and I will gather them here. The instructions say, '[s]end your finished piece', perhaps implying a single image. That will not do. I might pick a single one as the best of the bunch (criteria?), but they are all going in in some form. I have been toying with the idea of a collage and played with one today for the source images. I have included the Bing (which I homaged in EyV) as no collection of S-Ps can stand without it and perhaps I should have included a Maier too as that will be the (sort of) inspiration for my eventual rework, shop window => shop security camera for the current age (note to self, Maier took one in a security mirror - I have it to hand and will work it in - [6Apr] now shown as figs. J1 and J2 - it was on show at the Huxley-Parlour Gallery in Piccadilly last year). [14May20 see rework]
Photoshop Elements offer an easy, albeit somewhat cheesy, collage (I used it for part of an EyV submission) and here it is as fig. J1.
It will take a few sessions to get this right. The basic idea is there but framing the shot in darkness is tricky and I think I need a reflector to even the lighting. Nevertheless it was quite fun.
None of tonight's shots will make the cut, but I include examples as a reference point. The final versions will, of course, be B&W.
[10Apr] I had a quick look at the send night's shots last night and did not think much of them but changed my mind when processing them today. The high ceiling and small sensor (the Canon G5X is the only camera I have a flash cable for) and an aperture of f/7 resulted in an ISO of 10,000 and a pleasing overlay of digital 'grain'.
[10Apr] I washed the window again, inside and out, and chose the largest camera body to hand. These are much better.
I had forgotten what a pleasant camera to use a Nikon DLSR is and so took it on today's walk. I found an 'after Maier' shadow (I photographed the feather, then noticed the shadow and zoomed out again to take that) which will do until I can get the security device shot promised for the Corona Image Deficit.
I think my work here is done.
[11Apr] This is due in at the end of April. We are currently in Coronavirus lockdown, so I'm not sure what assignment delivery options will be operative then: let's assume everything will be done online for the foreseeable future — I have been sending physical prints since early EvY so there is a retrograde learning curve to be followed and inserted here.
I intend to print Asg.3 as though it were to be submitted thus in the hope that we will be back to physical prints by the time of final assessment. I'm not clear either on whether the submission is supposed to be one image or several , but here's my plan:
• In addition to the submission text, write a project introduction, including mention of the temporary delivery arrangements, where I sourced the technical requirements and a reference to Bing.
• Mention the Corona Image Deficit but state that the project is regarded as complete and can stand on its own merits.
• As with Asg.2, there will be a header image, probably fig. J1, but it would be my Bing, fig. J3, EyV Exc. 5.2 if that were not self plagiarism.
• The submission text, 300 words
• My copy of Laelia Goehr's 1945 portrait of Bill Brandt, as (entirely subjectively) the most successful outcome, fig. J4.
• The others, figs. J5-J9.
• A pdf of this development page
• Mention of and links to the matters arising from Asg.2, i.e. rework and essays, but I will not bother to send those as the equivalents were not mentioned in the last tutorial.
• All the new images below (J1-2, J4-9) will be printed for the final assessment.