I reblogged a post Samantha Pugsley put up regarding her photography and body dysmorphia a little while ago (here). Today when I was looking into what I wanted to bring in for my theory Tuesday image, I started looking through more of her work. Here are some examples of some really moving work that encompass body and emotional disconnect and longing in a beautiful and expressive way from the artist’s flickr page.
In Marsha Linehan’s view, the sensitivity, intensity, and duration with which people with BPD feel emotions have both positive and negative effects. People with BPD are often exceptionally idealistic, joyful, and loving. However, they can feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, experiencing intense grief instead of sadness, shame and humiliation instead of mild embarrassment, rage instead of annoyance, and panic instead of nervousness. People with BPD are especially sensitive to feelings of rejection, isolation, and perceived failure. Before learning other coping mechanisms, their efforts to manage or escape from their intense negative emotions can lead to self-injury or suicidal behavior. They are often aware of the intensity of their negative emotional reactions and, since they cannot regulate them, shut them down entirely. This can be harmful to people with BPD, as negative emotions alert people to the presence of a problematic situation and move them to address it.
While people with BPD feel joy intensely, they are especially prone to dysphoria, or feelings of mental and emotional distress. Zanarini et al. recognize four categories of dysphoria that are typical of this condition: extreme emotions; destructiveness or self-destructiveness; feeling fragmented or lacking identity; and feelings of victimization. Within these categories, a BPD diagnosis is strongly associated with a combination of three specific states: 1) feeling betrayed, 2) “feeling like hurting myself”, and 3) feeling out of control. Since there is great variety in the types of dysphoria experienced by people with BPD, the amplitude of the distress is a helpful indicator of borderline personality disorder. (Wikipedia)
I was particularly interested in their work with trees because trees are a subject very close to my heart.
from Speak For The Tree
Structure of Thought 7″
Attracted to Light 1″
Above, from Gravity of Light, an installation using 45,000 watts of light to illuminate their giant photographs
Double Rembrandt with Steps, 1987
I intend to photograph myself using long exposure blurring, in masks and possibly costumes to talk about how I don’t connect to my own face and body. I am also considering building composite images out of several photographs layered together in photoshop. We’ll see how it goes as I continue to shoot and evaluate the photographs. The work will discuss my identity and self recognition, with particular attention to my dissociation from my body as being representative of my self and my identity.
I’ve been investigating various other photographers during my look into this work and their work with identity. One of them I brought in for Theory Tuesday (February 4th) – Justin Myer Staller’s work with individual plates in printmaking that combined to create one image. Although I don’t think I’ll be using that particular process for this project, I may use it in a future body of work that also deals with fragmented identity and body history.
Matt Molloy works with photo stacking and his approach to distortion via time lapse is something I’m considering working with, as well. Several photos are taken (30-100) from the same angle, while one subject in the photograph (me) moves. Then those images are stacked and a composite image is produced. I came across Molloy’s work while trying to recall the work of Idris Khan and his stacking of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typologies. I have examples in my blog of all of these bodies of work.
I have tutorials posted there, as well. I’ve tried image stacking before and wasn’t able to get a look that I liked or really figure it out technically. I didn’t look up ways that other people were doing it before, so I’ve done that now so that I can work more solidly on a final composite image if I decide to go that route.
This technique can be used in a lot of ways to communicate fracture, motion, time lapse and distortion from multiple images into a single image. Some examples:
Time Collapse: How time-lapse photography led to turning stacks of frames into a single image
Molloy talks about his process with stacking. He uses an automated script to stack his photos (called advanced stacker (more about advanced stacker here) and applies lightening techniques usually employed with star trail photography like the tutorial here talks about. See photos here and here
I found this process while trying to remember something I wrote about in response reading [Lucy Soutter, “The Collapsed Archive: Idris Khan,” review of Idris Khan at Victoria Miro Gallery, London, Source, no. 49 (Winter 2006): 46-47.] (I wrote about this here in August 2011. I guess this imagery really stayed with me. was also, very specifically thinking about Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typologies that Khan collapsed into a single image.
Every… Bernd And Hilla Becher Gable Side Houses 2004
Photogrphic print 208 x 160 cm
Since 1959 Bernd and Hilla Becher have been photographing industrial structures that exemplify modernist engineering, such as gas reservoirs and water towers. Their photogrphs are often presented in groups of similar design; their repreated images make these everyday buildings seem stragely imposing and alien. Idris khan’s Every… Bernd And Gilla Becher series appropriates the Bechers’ imagery and compiles their collections into sing super-images. Inthis piece, multiple images of American-single gabled houses are digitally layered and super-imposed giving the effect of an impressionistic drawing or blurred film still. (source)
<p align right="Every… Bernd And Hilla Becher Prison Type Gasholders 2004
Photographic print 208 x 160cm
The structure in the Bechers’ original photographs are almost identical, though in Khan’s hands the images’ contrast and opacity is adjusted to ensure each layer can be seen and has presence. Though Kahn works in mechanised media and his images are of industrial subjects, their effect is of a soft ethereal energy. They exude a transfixing spiritual quality in their densely compacted details and ghostly outlines. … Prison Type Gasholders conveys a sense of time depiicted in motion, as if transporting the old building, in its obsolete black and white format, into the extreme future. (source)</a
Every… Bernd And Hilla Becher Spherical type Gasholders 2004
Photographic print 208 x 160cm
The Bechers took their photos as a means to document a disappearing tradition;
by grouping them according to ‘typology’ the buildings’ designs function like archetypal symbols or an architectural language. Through Khan’s translucent aggregations, structures such as ….Spherical Type Gasholders lose their commanding simplicity and rigid formalism and descend into fractured and gestural blurs. Through his photographs Khan compresses the timelind of repetition into indivisible subsuming moments and creates a poetic mutability from the fixed codes of history. (source)</a
Concerning Portrait Photography and its history:
“Look at the plates reproduced in this chapter. Notice how repetitious they arc. Heads and shoulders, as if those parts of our bodies were our truth”
“…It summoned up a complex historical iconography and elaborate codes of pose and posture readily understood within the societies in which such portrait images had currency. The head-on stare, so characteristic of simple portrait photography, was a pose which would have been read in contrast to the cultivated asymmetries of aristocratic posture so confidently assumed by Nadar’s Portrait of Rossini. Rigid frontality signified the bluntness and ‘naturalness’ of a culturally unsophisticated crass and had a history which predated photography. ”
“….the head-on view had become the accepted format of the popular amateur snapshop, but also of photographic documents like prison records and social surveys in which this code of social inferiority framed the meaning of representations of the objects of supervision or reform. ”
“The portrait is therefore a sign whose purpose is both the description of an individual and the inscription of social identity. But at the same time, it is also a commodity, a luxury, an adornmcnt, ownership of which itself confers status.”
-John Tagg, The Democracy of the Image
Expanding on this, particularly the first sentence for reading questions:
A portrait, according to John Tagg in his essay The Democracy of the Image, is a “sign whose purpose is both the description of an individual and the inscription of social identity.” Tagg also says that “at the same time, [the portrait photograph] is also a commodity, a luxury…[the] ownership of which itself confers status.”
Tagg speaks about the formal portrait, a shot of head and shoulders “as if those parts of our bodies were our truth”. Think about taking a portrait, though. Say, your senior yearbook photo. You go into a room that is not yours, under lighting that is not natural, sit in a way that you never sit, directed to tilt your head or body just so. There is no truth in this at all, and yet the resulting image, which goes in yearbooks and in frames in homes, is considered “you”.
I was going through old notepad notes on my phone and I found this note of random things from last semester:
Throw them in the air paste them back together
I don’t know what some of these were about, but the bolded one stands out to me as an interesting way to work on presenting the idea of dissociating from the body.
Print the work, then cut it into strips, paste those strips back together. Potentially, it could be scanned and reprinted as one image but I might need a really big scanner for that. There are digital alternatives, as well. Some glitching does the digital version of tossing something into the air and then pasting the sections back together. This is something to consider when working – something more than just the photography to capture the meaning since I’m struggling with ways to show that visually in a photograph.
If everything you said/did was written/painted on your body would you watch what you say/do? – smiles515
This seems like an interesting interpretation of identity, taking the spin of “what you do and say makes you who you are. I think I might be interested in recording myself for a day and writing everything I say on myself and photographing it. That’s only one piece, though. I wonder how I could space it out or make it more involved.
“interdisciplinary art collective beanotherlab asks ‘what would it be like to see through the eyes of the opposite sex?’, answered through their open source art investigation ‘the machine to be another‘. using two immersive head mounted displays — the oculus rift — the user partakes in a brain illusion, seeing a 3-dimensional video through the eyes’ of the person they face, who follows the former’s movements. designed as an interactive performance installation, the participants engage in an embodiment experience, seeing the other’s body as if it was their own. ‘the performer is someone interested in sharing a story about his/her existence. this role can be assumed by an actor interpreting a real situation, or rather it may be taken by any person who is interested in sharing some episode about his or her life.’, the team say of the project. although this example is an experiment in identity and self-realization, beanotherlab is looking towards using ‘the machine to be another’ the device in the treatment and rehabilitation of people with disabilities”
When you’re never comfortable as yourself, in your body, what would it be like to be able to see through the eyes of another person, to experience a momentary idea of living in a body different than the one you live in every day.
There’s a state of mind that some people experience where they look too long, spend too long watching something, reading something, and connect so solidly with those characters, with that face that they see that they begin to forget where that character ends and they begin. It is a divorced state of reality that some people experience very intensely. This reminds me also of that. How jarring it would be, how heartbreaking it might be to take the visor off and have to look in the mirror again at that face, at that body that you don’t identify with after being able to have seen the thing you could have been and maybe should have been. Is it better or worse afterward, knowing what you’ll never be?
I have to do an assignment on “identity” for printmaking. I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means to me since I started working with found photographs in my alternative photographic processes class last semester. I want to work with old photos of myself as a child, juxtaposed with new photographs of myself now, to talk about how I’ve changed as a person but am still struggling to identify with the body I live in. I’m sure I’ll have more to say after I finish doing my reading for my printmaking class and get some ideas out of that, but I wanted to talk about my ideas for what I might do for my first photo project for photo 4 this semester.
I was thinking about using masks. I worked with masks some last semester when I was making tintypes:
I included the third one because it gives me interesting ideas about how I can incorporate the masks with reflections of myself or my face either in other masks or out of masks to talk about how the mask is a part of my identity or how it hides parts of my identity. Neither of those masks are of my original design and were for costumes. Costuming has been a huge part of my life and really is a part of my identity. I feel strangely more comfortable in costumes being someone else than I do as “myself”. I have trouble identifying with a “self” particularly as it relates to my physical body, but also as it relates to a personal identity. I always have trouble with “tell me one thing about yourself” introductions because I can’t think of anything that’s uniquely me. Maybe that’s normal, but it’s part of the problem.
I decided to look up some other art that people have done as non-standard self portraits. Some of what I found was photographic, some wasn’t.
The Dream Children’ from The Hypnagogia Series by Kalliope Amorphous
Found via this amazing post that talks about Kalliope Amorphus’ work: Kalliope Amorphous Visualizes Identity, Gender And Archetypes
Self Portrait l Identity 2 l by shaikhdanial
The left shows a traditional self portrait, but the right shows it shattered and fragmented, which really speaks to how I feel about my own self identity. This could be done in photography either by digital manipulation or possibly with the use of mirrors angled away from a camera or with the camera behind the subject (me) in some way, supported by a tripod. Ideally, the easiest way to shoot something like this might be with a 4×5 because you can angle the camera down and shift it out of the line of sight of the mirrors. I never got fantastic with tilt/shift, but it might be worth playing with again sometime.
Self Portrait by Nathaniel Wolfe
From the artist:
This mosaic portrait is composed of 3000 images from various angles from the front of my head, and then organized to recreate an image of the back of my head. The 30″ by 30″ portrait pokes fun at visual perception and identity, as we’re “a sum of all our parts.”
Identity Self Portrait 2011
This talks to me about not identifying with the self, with the face, specifically, which is the center of the self for most people, and not something I identify with, on my own. It’s done via long-exposure, which is something I began experimenting with more last semester.
Camouflage Self-Portrait (RED)
Andy Warhol, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on canvas, 1986
Using a projector to distort parts of myself is another really interesting idea that I might try exploring. Also painting my face/body with some kind of body paint to change the way it looks. I’ve considered wearing clothing that has additional body parts attached that distort the way my body looks – not necessarily into something I identify with, but into something monsterous or disturbing or abnormal to communicate how I feel about my own body and my distorted sense of self.
This is just a start, a place to brainstorm ideas going forward.