Experiment1 - Stuart Anderson
SELF-PORTRAIT AS MIRROR SELF-PORTRAIT AS SOUL a photographic exhibition supported by The Photographic Angle
The Photographic Angle Registered Charity 1135750
Self-Portrait as mirror – self-portrait as soul
The Photographic Angle holds free exhibitions that travel across the UK transforming vacant spaces into temporary galleries. The exhibitions showcase the contemporary work from students, graduates and enthusiasts of the art of photography giving the public the chance to see the current practices from this dynamic field. For each exhibition, a professional in the photographic field is invited to select a new theme inspired by their own research for which artists can submit work to tour around TPA galleries throughout the UK.
The self-portrait has been a mainstay for artists since the Stone Age.The debate centred on the notion of the ‘self’ as distinct and separate from the ‘other’ has pervaded the cultural history of mankind. Some suggest that the self is simply an illusion and that we are part of a continuum or stream, others that each individual is a unique aspect of creation, still others suffer the existential angst of nihilism. In photography a number of photographic artists have at some time or another used the self-portrait device as part of their work – indeed many have made it central to their practice. Even in the work of the earliest photographic experimenters evidence can be found of an exploration of an individual’s identity where the images produced are intended as an expression about themselves and their own condition as opposed to simply recording what lay before the lens. Hippolyte Bayard (1807-87), one of the several co-inventors of photography in the 1830s, developed his own process for the rendering of light through the Camera Obscura, and produced perhaps the earliest instance of the staged self-portrait photograph. His direct positive print, Le Noyé (self-portrait as a drowned man), 18th October 1840 was supposedly made because he felt that his own process of light capture was given scant recognition in relation to his compatriot Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre’s (17871851) lauded process, the Daguerreotype. Bayard’s image is a spectacle;this representation of the artist’s own death is a fabrication that plays on notions of the reality of photographic depiction against the theatrical space of the staged frame.Yet it is also a statement of existence, of his presence at a given point in the continuum of time. This is the dual nature that the photograph presents,real and imagined.
How then can this device ever be used successfully to subvert such fixed representations of which it is so much a part? What makes photography so useful as a medium of interpretation of the self? Why do photographs present us with such a forceful but enigmatic construct of ourselves? Perhaps it is because photography has wielded (and continues to wield) a deep psychological power over those photographed and for those in possession of photographs. This power stems from the fact that rather than the image being a simulacrum - a sketch - the photograph is perceived to be the very image of the sitter, their reflected shade even to the point of bearing a dangerous occult power over the subject. In his seminal essayThe Directorial Mode:NotesToward a Definition (1976),the criticA.D.Coleman discusses the strategies of staging that photographic artists have employed since the invention of photography, and how this mode has become an important struggle for photography to “free itself from the imperative of realism.”i In addition to those photographers altering what happens before the lens and those creating staged tableaux (e.g. Cindy Sherman or Duane Michals) this staging mode also applies to the construction of images that play off a reading of the real (in the photographically recorded subject) against an imaginative construction, as in the work of artists using photomontage and photo- collage. Where the artist or photographer manipulates and re- contextualises both self-generated and found images, they are: exploiting the initial assumption of credibility by evoking it for events and relationships generated by the photographer’s deliberate restructuring of what takes place in front of the lens as well as the resulting image ... raw material, to be itself manipulated as much as desired i Coleman, A. D. Light Readings: a photography critic’s writings 1968-1978. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. p. 249.
Manscape Wales 1- Paal Henrik Ekern