Assignment 3 – Context

I followed an interesting discussion on the OCA forum about working in a certain context and how to report on that. Somehow, I had always worked the other way around. First looking at a lot of art, reading articles and watching films and from there on decide on my own practice. However, as Peter pointed out, the idea is to first work on your assignment and from there on put it in a certain context.

Probably this order is not as strict as it sounds, I believe the context I work in is constantly expanding and changing, aware or unaware. It is impossible to come up with a certain idea that is completely my own, even if I think it is, there always turns out to be an other photographer who has done similar work. Thinking about my own way of working, I’d say that most of my ideas are developed quite spontaneously, but are influenced by work I have recently looked at or have actively been looking for in order to get a bigger platform of ideas to work from.

My own journaling is pretty poorly and I think I should push myself more to make notes on what I see, explore and notice in my daily life and when I’m studying. I think it will make my thought processes more visible and show on the long run how my own voice is developing. I realize that what keeps me from doing that is actually not having a color printer and being very bad at drawing. These are both stumble blocks that I can do something about, so better get started!

For this assignment my tutor told me to look at the ways in which Vivian Maier incorporated self portraits in her oeuvre of work. When I look at them, I see an inquisitiveness about putting herself in the environment she is photographing and how her photographic practices portray herself in the scenes she is creating. Her presence is never at random. They are carefully placed in the frame, sometimes reminding of self portraits of Escher, Lee Friedlander and other artists.

Vivian’s work was a very private matter, but these examples show that she was part of a bigger picture and let herself be influenced by other photographers. I see striking similarities with Lee Friedlander’s selfies, the same type of experimenting with mirrors and reflection, shadows and using one’s own presence in defining the theme and focus of the image. When photographing I deliberately tried to come up with a similar image, especially in these:

All three show a certain disruption of the scene through my presence, changing the subject from a domestic object or street scene into an experience of me being there, showing an integration self with the exterior world and the change of function and meaning of myself and the place I am in.

The photographs that I took at night, which are constructed, even though not a whole lot of construction took place, remind me, humbly, of the work of Gregory Crewdson and Hannah Starkey. The seem to reflect a certain loneliness and ‘inwardly focused’ that I find striking for their work. Although I haven’t added the second image to the book, I do think it works really well in this set, so I wanted to add it anyway.

I am not sure in which context I could place my images that have been manipulated and that show the change of features when jumping up and down. However, the idea of photographing motion and showing moments that are not discernible by human eye was already explored in the late 19th century by Muybridge. In a sense I want to focus on the same concept, that our eyes don’t see the way we look and that our impression of what we see is not based on the sum of the scenes together. This idea also comes across in the manipulated images, showing the boundaries of our visual awareness and where the interpreting of our brain takes over.

Overall, the concept of self portraiture has been explored throughout the history of art, but I do think that social media and smart phones have challenged the reasoning behind self portraiture in a big way. My assignment touches upon the issues of narcissism and exhibitionism, individuality and privacy, digital and tangible reality, self portrayal and the notions of self that our societies are facing now and therefor can be put in the wider context of artists working on similar subjects.

Arbuckle, A. (2017). The photos that revolutionized how we understand motion. [online] Mashable. Available at: http://mashable.com/2015/12/21/muybridge-motion-studies/#5mZkST7iOgqm [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

ELEPHANT. (2017). 5 Questions with Hannah Starkey – ELEPHANT. [online] Available at: https://elephantmag.com/5-questions-with-hannah-starkey/ [Accessed 21 Mar. 2017].

Instantly Framed. (2017). EXHIBITION REVIEW | VIVIAN MAIER. [online] Available at: https://instantlyframed.com/latest-news/vivian-maier-2/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

PetaPixel. (2017). An Interview with Gregory Crewdson. [online] Available at: https://petapixel.com/2016/05/18/interview-gregory-crewdson/ [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

Holly Marie Armishaw – Contemporary Artist. (2017). The Philosophy of Self-Portraiture in Contemporary Art – Essay. [online] Available at: http://www.hollyarmishaw.com/the-philosophy-of-self-portraiture-in-contemporary-art—essay.html [Accessed 19 Apr. 2017].

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