[3Mar20, [2, p.79]]
Moving on from the autobiographical, this section is about 'using yourself to say something about something else' [2, p.79]. But bear in mind Szarkowski' suggestion in Mirrors and Windows  that all photographs since 1960 can be placed on a continuum between mirrors (which tell viewers more about the artist) and windows (which, of course, tell them more about the world).
The three examples to consider are Nikki S. Lee who 'infiltrates sub cultures', Trish Morrissey, who inserts herself into family groups and Tracey Moffatt who dresses up as slebs born as (astrological) Scorpios. Full disclosure - I am a Scorpion. I have another example to add Bertien van Manen who aims for a similar effect as Lee and Morrissey, but without appearing in the image.
Looking at these in a little more detail,
Nikki S. Lee of Korean origin and working in the US, has chosen a series of cultural groups with which she photographs herself in disguise. The cmat lists some of these Projects, 'a Chinese tourist, a Puerto Rican woman, a hip hop fan [fig. A1], a runner, a bride' [2, p.79] and suggests that Lee,
questions the reliability of the photograph as a record and challenges the very nature of self-representation C&N [2, p.79]
This is one interpretation: another that springs to mind under the Szarkowski Mirror concept is that Lee, as she is not native to the US (she migrated in 1994, aged 24), might be motivated to explore and illustrate the experiences of various minorities.
The matter of cultural appropriation should be mentioned. This increasingly pervasive idea (but largely unnoticed when the course was written) has been dealt a significant blow recently when Bernardine Evaristo, the first black female winner of the Booker prize, stated that 'that whole idea of cultural appropriation is ridiculous' [viii]. Lee's status as of Korean origin comes to her aid in this regard, although some of her disguises have brought criticism, as will be seen in Exc. 3.2.
Trish Morrissey - this is a terrific notion. Morrissey asks holiday groups whether she can stand (or sit) in for a member of the party and swaps clothes and positions with them for a holiday snap (see figs. A3 and A4). I have not read the cmat evaluation yet, but I will pose the question, 'what does this achieve' ? Looking at Morrissey's web site, I would say a series of quality family snaps in which I sometimes struggle to identify the interloper. My first thought was had Morrissey seen Woody Allen's Zelig before coming up with the idea? The Guardian interviewed Morrissey on the series in 2013 [i] and she described the process for fig. A4
When I saw this family, I knew there was the potential for a beautiful photograph: the beach behind them was empty, they were positioned well (I don't like to arrange people at all), and they didn't have too much picnic detritus. It takes a lot of bottle to ask strangers to do something like this, but they got it quickly and had an openness to art that was about more than the beret and paintbrush. Once they said yes, I set up, which took half an hour. I had to entertain them to keep their attention, and the mood became quite hyper. But it was fun: it had to be fun or why would I do it?
I swapped places with the woman, put on her ring, and she pressed the button. I had to get up to reset the camera between frames, so I only got two shots – that's highly risky. But this picture was one of those moments you can't plan. All of the elements came together: the light was just right, the family were beautiful and really into being involved. Then when I printed the photograph, I realised there was a perfect wave behind my head. Trish Morrissey in The Guardian [i]
Fun but without a point. It is possible that Morrissey developed the idea for Fronts from Hans Eijkelboom who we meet in I&P Part 3.
Some of Morrissey other projects, listed on her site are:
Seven Years (2001-2004) Morrissey and her sister enact stereotypical family album snapshots.
In The Failed Realist, (2011) Morrissey’s 5yo daughter paints her (Morrissey’s) face
and in The Successful Realist, (2017) her daughter, now 11, makes a rather more accomplished job of the same task.
For Rosa, Irma and the Sandman (n.d.) Morrissey plays both of a pair of real life Swedish identical twins, Rosa and Irma Bohlin, born in 1915.
Tracey Moffatt, born towards the end of the calendar year, portrays some well-known women born at a similar time. The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) describes her background thus, 'Fostered out at the age of three by her Aboriginal mother (she's never known who her father was), she was the eldest daughter in her white adopted family' [ii].
For her project Under the Sign of Scorpio (figs. B1-2), along with the final images, Moffatt released contact sheets of other shots taken in her home studio before post processing. We are told in the cmat that,
… the work isn’t about Moffatt, or even the famous woman she pretends to be; rather, she is using herself to enter into the assumed psychological space of celebrity … Moffatt makes us aware of photography’s role in the creation of celebrity [and] draw[s] attention to the limitations of photography’s role in the masquerade. C&N [2, p.81]
Some other Moffatt projects described in he SMH are,
… her stunning 1989 series Something More, in which she appears as a doomed glamourpuss in the outback, resplendent in a red cheongsam … She loathes interpreting her work, often refusing to be drawn on the significance of her adopted personas, whether it's as a naked companion for a stuffed sheep in Pet Thang, a self-described "witchy woman" preying on scuba divers in the luridly kitsch Adventure series or a mother frightened by haunted railroad tracks in her feature film Bedevil. Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 2005 [ii]
Bertien van Manen features in Bright & van Erp's Photography decoded [6, p.53] for her project Give Me Your Image (2002-5) in which she visits 'strangers' homes in Europe' and asks to see a treasured personal photograph which she then rephotographs in the context of their other possessions. The example shown in the book (fig. B3) is from a West Yorkshire mining family in a community damaged by the miners' strike and subsequent pit closures and job losses.
Although van Manen does not appear in this series, it is comparable with Morrissey for audacity and seems to capture something less trivial than the other projects listed here because it penetrates more deeply into its subjects' lives and values.
• Is there any sense 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 on 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. C&N [2, p.80]
[4Mar20, [2, p.80]] In practical legal terms under the protocols for hate speech and hate incidents agreed by the Crown Prosecution Service and the police (though not under statute as strictly defined by Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 [iii])
[reformatted] something is a hate incident if the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on one of the following … disability, race, religion, transgender identity, sexual orientation. This means that if you believe something is a hate incident it should be recorded as such by the person you are reporting it to. All police forces record hate incidents based on these five personal characteristics.Citizens Advice, What are hate incidents and hate crime?, [iv]
It is not difficult to find individuals who regard some of Lee's Projects as discriminatory.
The website contemp+orary (which was set up to monitor the treatment of minority artists) published a piece in 2016 criticising Lee's Hispanic Project for using 'brownface' [v].
By contrast, in a review of Lee's a.k.a. Nikki S. Lee (2007) [vi] Amada Cruz describes Lee's approach in Projects as,
[with] a winningly guileless personality and a genuine lack of condescension toward her subjects, she is welcomed into the gang and remains for a few weeks to several monthsAmada Cruz [vi]
From which it may be concluded that it is easy to be offended by Lee's Projects if the viewer wishes to do so and the police would have to take any such complaint seriously. But it is equally possible to regard the work as a well-meaning and legitimate attempt to explore and embrace cultural differences.
• Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day on the beach with your family? If not, why not?
[5Mar20, [2, p.80]] Putting to one side the fact that I am not a beach holiday person, my first reaction was an unequivocal 'yes' and leave it at that.
But (a) I guess a course question requires a higher word count than that and (b) the next day I'm having second thoughts.
I would, at the risk of sounding priggish, seek to understand the nature of the photographer's work and then only agree if I supported that purpose and didn't mind being used as an example of whatever photographer is depicting. It might be interesting to learn the reaction Emily Thornberry would have received if she had asked the residents of the flag-bedecked house she photographed in 2014 whether they would like their home to be depicted as an object of ridicule.
If I were undertaking such a project, I would carry a previous example to show prospective subjects and promise them a print of the final result (I have made a quick check but cannot find any indication that Morrissey did the latter).
• 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.
Both those projects were mentioned briefly above. When I first encountered them a couple of days ago, I cannot say that I was enthused to emulate them. While I described Fronts as 'Fun but without a point', Seven and both Realist projects (2011 and 2017) seem far more insular and less revealing of anything of interest or importance. (That said, for Exercise 3.3 I am required to make my own (one of) seven †.) Morrissey has said in interview that Seven [vii] is about 'secrets', and that the images 'all have a dark twist', but that is entirely subjective to her own perception of them and not a view that I share.
Another project of Morrissey's that I find more engaging is Ten People in a Suitcase, where Morrissey (as part of a commission) portrayed ten local workers in the Mänttä, Finland town archive. Here she is portraying real people with real lives and the work has a much greater vitality.
† it is acknowledged that Morrissey's Seven emulates generic family snaps rather than actual ones.
‡ the full title of the image is Fig. 04287KEL (TM) G. A. Serlachius Oy’s workers at Loukkusuo peat bog. One Woman. 1943 / 2015. Mänttä, Finland, from Ten People in a Suitcase.
This is a placeholder, to be replaced by a better shot in due course.
Self-portraiture, Masquerades, is about dressing up and assuming other personas for a variety of purposes ranging from self-agrandisement to social comment.
Part 3 Project 2 - Local References
(i) Phillips, S. (2013) Trish Morrissey's best photograph: infiltrating a family on a Kent beach [online]. theguardian.com. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jan/23/trish-morrissey-best-shot [Accessed 3 March 2020].
(ii) Selinger-Morris, S. (2005) The secret lives of Tracey Moffatt [online]. smh.com.au. Available from https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/the-secret-lives-of-tracey-moffatt-20050730-gdls0e.html [Accessed 4 March 2020].
(iii) legislation.gov.uk (2006) Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 [online]. legislation.gov.uk. Available from http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/1/contents [Accessed 4 March 2020].
(iv) Citizens Advice (2020) What are hate incidents and hate crime? [online]. citizensadvice.org.uk. Available from https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/discrimination/hate-crime/what-are-hate-incidents-and-hate-crime/ [Accessed 4 March 2020].
(v) Kim, E. (2016) Nikki S. Lee’s “Projects”—And the Ongoing Circulation of Blackface, Brownface in “Art” [online]. contemptorary.org. Available from https://contemptorary.org/nikki-s-lees-projects-and-the-ongoing-circulation-of-blackface-brownface-in-art/ [Accessed 4 March 2020].
(vi) Cruz, A. (2007) Nikki S. Lee [online]. website. Available from https://www.x-traonline.org/article/nikki-s-lee [Accessed 4 March 2020].
(vii) Boothroyd, S. (2016) Trish Morrissey [online]. photoparley.wordpress.com. Available from https://photoparley.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/trish-morrissey/ [Accessed 5 March 2020].
(viii) Sanderson, D. (2019) Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo writes off ‘cultural appropriation’ [online]. thetimes.co.uk. Available from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/booker-winner-bernardine-evaristo-writes-off-cultural-appropriation-bklfsqhgk [Accessed 5 March 2020].