Identity and the self portrait

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
by symons-photography

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.

Wanderlust

The next assignment in photography has not been well defined yet, but it starts with a walk and a reading from Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnt.

Here are some quotes from the book that particularly stood out in the short portion that was read aloud to us during class for inspiration.

  • “Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.
  • “Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. Is is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals.”
  • “To make walking into an investigation, a ritual, a meditation, is a special subset of walking . . . Which is to say that the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings. Like eating or breathing, it can be invested with wildly different cultural meanings, from the erotic to the spiritual, from the revolutionary to the artistic.”
  • “The rhythm of walking generates a kind of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.”

Interesting sites of note about mindful walking include:

I haven’t yet taken my walk – I don’t know if I’ll record anything personal about it. I’m debating between taking my camera and/or my phone and/or a voice recorder to record my thoughts while I walk.

Years ago I used to walk to clear my head. I think better when I’m in motion. I used to carry an old bulky tape recorder with me and transcribe the thoughts when I got back. I walked best late at night in the winter in a small rural town where I knew all the paths. I didn’t think about where I was going – just let my feet take me there and let my mind go where it wanted. I’m a little excited about getting back into this and being more aware of the things I see this time around.

One of the things I love about photography is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary and I think that may be a lot of what this assignment ends up being about.