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C&N Part 3: Putting yourself in the picture

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Project 1 Autobiographical - Project 2 - Masquerades - Exc. 3.1 - Exc. 3.2 - Exc. 3.3 - Project 3 - Self-absented - Exc. 3.4 - Upsum

Brotherus - Calle - Fox - Kapajeva - Lee - Moffatt - Morrissey - Shafran - Sherman - Taylor-Johnson - van Manen - Wearing - Woodman - Conclusion

See the blog, 1st December for consideration of the referencing used on this page.
And further comments on local referencing here.

Project 3 - Self-absented portraiture

[9Mar20, [2, p.83]] This is photographers dealing with aspects of their own lives without appearing in the images themselves.

We return to Sophie Calle, seen in Part 2, and her project Take Care of Yourself, where she delegates interpreting her situation to other women with particular areas of expertise.


Maria Kapajeva
b: Estonia
Artist's site - Link

Maria Kapajeva [2, p.83] the cmat (2017) describes Kapajeva's series, as '2012–ongoing'. In it, she photographs 'young women with whom she identifies … forging their own identities in a contemporary society' and this 'become(s) a form of self-portraiture'.

On her web site Kapajeva states, in relation to this series,

I grew up in a culture where women were declared equal to men. This, however, applied to their jobs not to domestic duties, which remained exclusively the obligation of women. They hardly ever got to the top management positions but instead aimed to get happily married and dedicate themselves firstly to the families and then to their jobs. When photography came into my life, I began to realize that the myriad of possibilities and perspectives that it afforded were much more interesting than any dream of ‘marrying a prince’.
With my move to the UK, I was lucky to meet women who shared my thoughts, were passionate about their careers, and wanted a freedom of choice in what they would aim in their lives. Most of these women have moved to a new country, as I have, not to get married, but to realize their own potential in whatever they do: write, draw, paint, photograph or invent. Working in collaboration with them, I try to find the ways to photograph each of them as a unique and strong personality in her own working environment. For me these women are my peers and represent a new generation of impassioned young intellectuals who are not afraid to undertake risks and break the rules. With this ongoing project I am interested to open debates on imagery of women in contemporary society in the context of the historical, cultural bias and the global changes we are each going through. Maria Kapajeva [i]

It could be argued that describing this series as self-portraiture is misleading — Kapajeva is photographing independent, determined young women, some of them migrants to the UK, and Kapajeva matches those criteria herself. While they may well be 'young women with whom she identifies' [2, p.83] , they may also be people with whom she associates and who would welcome the recognition and are therefore readily available as subjects.
Or perhaps the course's author (Boothroyd) takes the view that Kapajeva sees herself as one of Szarkowski's windows but she is really more of a mirror.

There are two portraits from the series shown on the artists we site, Nhung (fig. A1) which is also in the cmat, and Asya (fig. A2). Other projects shown on Kapajeva's site include, — well that was the plan but I could find no clear-cut photographic projects on Kapajeva's site.

Maria Kapajeva Maria Kapajeva Anna Fox Anna Fox
Box A
1. Maria Kapajeva, Nhung, from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
2. Maria Kapajeva, Asya, from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
3-4. Anna Fox, Cockroach Diary, 2000
© the artists or their agents

Nigel Shafran
b: 1964
Artist's site - Wikipedia

Nigel Shafran [2, p.86] is described in the cmat as starting 'his career as a fashion photographer but has moved his practice into the realm of fine art'. It concludes, on the Washing-up series, 'The more you look at the images, the more
distinctions you can make and the more insights you get. His use of everyday domestic
environments gives the viewer a point of resonance and a sense of shared experience in
the commonplace activity of "doing the washing up".'

Shafran is quoted in a Guardian interview [ii] as saying of his work,

My work is about a build-up of images, often in sequences. There is a connection between them all. Basically, I'm a one-trick pony: it's all life and death and that's it. Nigel Shafran in The Guardian [ii]

Other projects include:
Whitewashed windows (1992)
Dad's Office (1999), described by The Guardian as, 'a set of rather bleak photographs taken between 1996 and 1998, of the contents of the abandoned rooms from which his father had once worked' [iii].
Images and comments are below as Exc. 3.4.


Anna Fox
b: 1961 UK
Artist's site - Wikipedia

Anna Fox [2, p.88] wrote the Cockroach Diary, 2000, describing and illustrating her experience of a domestic infestation. The cmat states, '[t]he combination of text and imagery reveals the friction and frustration of trying to deal with an unpleasant situation. Cockroach Diary became symbolic of the fractured environment, social structures and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships in her life at the time'.

Other projects include,
My Mother's Cupboards and My Father's Words, 2000
Resort 1, 2009 (family breaks) and Resort 2, 2009 - 2011 (adult breaks), both set in set in Butlins, Bognor Regis.


Exercise 3.4

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. C&N [2, p.87]

[13Mar20, [2, p.87]]
Q1 No, because the course material gives the photographer's name as 'Nigel' above the photograph. Why Shafran, a man, or any person of whatever gender would photograph the washing area of a domestic kitchen requires clarification, context before one can reach any sensible conclusion on what the photograph is 'about'.

Q2 The terms of the question, as a generalisation, are excessively reductionist, (perhaps it is intended to provoke a reaction), but experiences affected by gender are likely to influence an individual photographer's work and also an individual viewer's interpretation of a photograph. That said, it is not useful or (in my view) possible to reach any general conclusions on how this will manifest itself.

Q3 Shafran might be suggesting that the routine domestic facilities exist and operate independently of any household. Or, in purely practical terms and given the complexity of his image titles for this series, any human presence would interfere with the view of the sink and surrounding area. My father used to say "you're thick glass" to anyone who stood between him and the television.

Q4 There is a surprisingly rich vein of kitchen sink still lifes and, perhaps equally surprisingly, the first two to hand are also by male photographers. The first, Thomas Demand's Sink / Spüle, 1997, (fig. B4) I recalled from Shore's The nature of photographs [7] the second, Wolfgang Tillmans, Kitchen Still Life, 1995 (fig. B5) fortuitously, arrived in the post yesterday in Soutter's Why art photography? [8, p.80]. Shafran's image seems rather sterile when compared to the others (I photographed my own kitchen sink at 12:39 today, 13Mar20 after we had eaten our daily fruit and yogurt, fig. B6).

Evaluating Shafran's work overall, and bearing in mind his own quote above, I would say that he documents the ordinary competently.

Nigel Shafran Nigel Shafran Nigel Shafran
Sink / Spüle, 1997, Thomas Demand Tillmans, Kitchen Still Life
Box B?
1. Nigel Shafran, from Whitewashed windows, 1992
2. Nigel Shafran, from Dad’s office, 1997-99
3. Nigel Shafran, 4th January 2000. Three bean soup, cauliflower vegetable cheese. Morning
coffee and croissants
, from Washing-up.
4. Thomas Demand, Sink / Spüle, 1997
5. Wolfgang Tillmans, Kitchen Still Life, 1995
6. Nick Blackburn, After the fruit, 2020
© the artists or their agents

Conclusion and Summing up

Autobiographical self-portraiture is the first of three applications of the craft addressed in this Part. It might be used to illustrate or emphasise an aspect of the artist's life, sometimes to draw attention to an issue within society and it may have a therapeutic, cathartic intention.
Masquerades, is about dressing up and assuming other personas for a variety of purposes ranging from self-agrandisement to social comment.
In self-absented portraiture the photographers are saying, directly or by extension or by proxy, ' this is this the space I inhabit, these are my surroundings, my environment.'


Project 1 Autobiographical - Project 2 - Masquerades - Exc. 3.1 - Exc. 3.2 - Exc. 3.3 - Project 3 - Self-absented - Exc. 3.4 - Upsum

Brotherus - Calle - Fox - Kapajeva - Lee - Moffatt - Morrissey - Shafran - Sherman - Taylor-Johnson - van Manen - Wearing - Woodman - Conclusion


Part 3 Project 2 - Local References

(i) Kapajeva, M.(2020) Maria Kapajeva [online]. mariakapajeva.com. Available from http://www.mariakapajeva.com/a-portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-woman/ [Accessed 11 March 2020].

(ii) Phillips, S. (2010) Photographer Nigel Shafran's best shot [online]. theguardian.com. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/apr/21/photography-nigel-shafran-best-shot [Accessed 13 March 2020].

(iii) Jobey, L (2008) Photographer Nigel Shafran: domestic harmony [online]. theguardian.com. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/oct/23/nigel-shafran [Accessed 11 March 2020].

(rn) author (year) title [online]. website. Available from url [Accessed nn March 2020].

(rn) author (year) title [online]. website. Available from url [Accessed nn March 2020].


Page created 09-Mar-2020 | Page updated 14-Apr-2020