I have considered the work of Jo Spence in previous modules. Her work continues to emotionally impact me when I view it. Her work has been described as intimate and honest and it is to this that I aspire my work to be.
Comparing my work to Spence’s, the strong and intense gaze in both images (figures 1 and 2) draws the viewer in, revealing a vulnerability and uncomfortableness. For me, being in front of the camera requires a performance in order to get the shot. The hardness of the lighting in Spence’s image gives it a standoffishness which makes the viewer feel unwelcome, almost intruding. My image has a softer feel and I feel as uncomfortable viewing the image as I did creating the image.
When I look at this image, I do not see me. I am not someone who normally appears vulnerable; I have a strong and confident personality in real-life, yet this image shows vulnerability in front of the camera. As Katy Grannan reasons “It’s of me, but it’s not me. Portraiture can be interpreted as a kind of betrayal, but in fact it’s fiction.” (View from the edge: Katy Grannan’s photographs at Somerset House, London 2017).
Yet as uncomfortable as figure 2 makes me, this image is key to the project as it is an important part of the story of the portrayal of self and is the starting point for the alterations that happen to my selfie as I control my online representation and create another self, another version of me to share with the world. The impact and interpretation of the images in my work will depend on the viewer’s personal experiences as well as their expectation and understanding of conventional beauty standards.
According to Barthes, the viewer does not interpret the image they see, instead, viewing the construction as fact, convinced that what they see is the truth (2013). Images appear everywhere in contemporary advertising and consumer culture. Often these are altered, leading the viewer to make assumptions about beauty and social value. My image represents an honest, unaltered view of myself. It is raw and vulnerable. And yet it is still uncomfortable.
My intent through my work is to challenge modern perceptions surrounding beauty and expectations of how we present ourselves online. This image is a start.
Barthes, R. 2013. Mythologies. 1st edn. New York: Hill and Wang.
View from the edge: Katy Grannan’s photographs at Somerset House, London. 2017. Ft.com[online]. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/7ed7800a-1185-11e6-839f-2922947098f0 [accessed 4 June 2018].
Figure 1: Spence, J., and MARTIN, R. 1985. Untitled. Collections.vam.ac.uk. [online] Available at: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1157257/photograph-spence-jo/ [Accessed 4 June 2018].