Figure 1: ‘Self-portrait’ 2018 Jo Sutherst
Figure 2: ‘The bags under my eyes are Chanel’ 2018 Jo Sutherst
Figure 3: ‘FIMUP003/FIMUP008/FIMUP009/FIMUP016/ FIMUP019/FIMUP021/FIMUP026/FIFLA002/ FIFLA006/MANIP’ 2018 Jo Sutherst
Figures 1 and 2 are supremely bland, rigid and clinically executed self-portraits that essentially tells us we can read nothing from a portrait other than the reproducible nature of the photograph. The viewer and their interpretation of the image bring everything else to the narrative.
The direct gaze challenges and forces the viewer to consider if we can truly trust a face. Are we, as the viewer, being manipulated? What is the real meaning of the images?
My images all share the same an expressionless and deadpan aesthetic. The passport-style photographs reveal every surface detail of my face. They are brutally honest in their portrayal.
I have used the expressionless face in all my images. The conscious decision to keep the images as neutral as possible was made to invite the viewer in. This way, the viewer has a presence in the images as they need to apply their own understanding to the image before them.
These are not flattering images of me. I am not sure that one exists. I dislike my own photograph and these ones are not images of myself that particularly like.
Viewing these images makes me as uncomfortable as I am in front of the camera.
Figures 1 and 2 are key to the project as they are an integral part of the story of the portrayal of self. They are the starting point for the alterations that happen to my digital presentation as I control my online persona and create another self; another version of me to share with the world (figure 3).
But through the exhibition, I have grown to like these images.
Zajonc (1968) proposed that the more we encounter a stimulus, the more we tend to like it. So, viewing my images every day during the exhibition has had the effect that I have grown to view my photograph as more attractive than I did at the start. I don’t for one minute believe I am attractive, but I don’t feel as unattractive in them as I did.
I do not view figure 3 as myself though. I see it as an avatar created purely for a digital realm. The portrait is purely a product of the makeup I have plastered on my face and the product of excessive digital manipulation. This manipulation creates an image which no longer represents my self-portrait. It is playing piece in the self-representation game that we feel we should play every day online.
There is an obsessive element to the image. This is expressed by the image title which is created from unique part numbers I have assigned the makeup (use the exhibition supporting booklet to look up these up).
I could have improved the images perceived attractiveness by smiling in them. Golle et al (2014) determined through their research that happier faces were consistently judged to be more attractive, even if those faces are manipulated to look less attractive.
The photographs I like the most of myself are those in which I am smiling. Researchers have determined that there is a link between happiness and attractiveness (Deiner et al. 1995; Datta Gupta et al. 2016).
It will be interesting to reconsider these images in the future with a smiling face to see what effect that has. My concern with that is the effect the smile will have one the viewer and their interpretation of the work.
Diener, E., Wolsic, B., and Fujita, F. 1995. “Physical attractiveness and subjective well-being.”. In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(1), 120-129.
Golle, J., Mast, F.W., and Lobmaier, J.S. 2013. “Something to smile about: The interrelationship between attractiveness and emotional expression”. In Cognition and Emotion, 28(2), 298-310.
Datta Gupta, N., Etcoff, N.L., and Jaeger, M.M. 2015. “Beauty in Mind: The Effects of Physical Attractiveness on Psychological Well-Being and Distress”. In Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(3), 1313-1325.
Zajonc, R., B. 1968. “Attitudinal effects of mere exposure.”. In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2, Pt.2), 1-27.