In my art I have been attempting to portray an inner-self. It’s a vision within us that exists in balance with the outside physical world, but is largely hidden. I made a small change in my photography, and it took my work deeper into this realm. Continue reading
Tag Archives: self image
I’ve been creating some new artwork that gets at the physical-psychological link between perception and bodily reality. Continue reading »
The Mirror Series of art nudes deals with self image in photography and its inspiration for the came from several events. The idea to work with dull metal as a reflective surface came during a workshop with Connie Imboden at the Maine Media Workshops. I bought a piece of aluminum sheeting and brought it into the studio to play with. I shot this image with a model named Margaret.
When she saw the image, her first response was “Oooh, I like that one! I look thin!”. That struck me as odd, because Margaret was anything but fat! It shocked me that this lovely, confident young woman had an image of herself as needing to be thinner.
The other event (around the same time) was that I suddenly noticed myself looking older. I thought maybe it was job stress, or not sleeping well, or turning 40, but when I started looking closely at photos from the last couple of years I realized I had looked this way for a while. It was just that my mental self image was tied to the 30-something version of me. I had been ignoring the aging visage in the mirror and substituting the younger version in my mind!
Out of these two events came the idea for the mirror series. I wanted to explore how we form our self image and how different events, media or actions could distort that image. I also wanted to probe the difference between image and its interpretation. Margaret and I could clearly look at the same picture and see two different things because we brought different biases and histories to the viewing. The mirrors I use are intentionally imperfect, so their reflection cannot be a true representation of reality. Their reflections are warped, uneven and fuzzy. And yet their images are “real”- they exist! It is up to the viewer to decide how to interpret them. The resulting image is more like a memory- blurred and imperfect- than like a true photograph.
Ever wonder why seeing yourself in a photo or on video can be an uncomfortable experience? Or why hearing your own voice played back sounds “weird”? Much of it has to do with our formed self image. Each of us has a mental self image that we have constructed over time. We base that self image upon the information received every day. Our brain forms an idea of “what do I look like?” from daily visual data, which for most us is what we seen in the mirror. Think about how many times per day you see yourself in a mirror. That repetitive data input is what your brain bases its self image upon, but that image is reversed from reality. So when you see a picture of yourself- un-reversed- it can look odd. Our brain knows it’s us, but something is not quite right. The same is true for hearing your own voice. How you think your voice sounds is based upon the resonance through the bones in your skull so when it is played back to you without that resonance, things sound odd.
So what does this have to do with the digital era? Well, if you hadn’t noticed there is an entire generation of people who grew up with camera phones in hand and for whom snapping a “selfie” is a daily (if not hourly!) ritual. Clearly this generation is already more comfortable with the self portrait! At the same time, those images can be easily manipulated at whim. So the question I have is how that affects the formation of self image? Not how it affects self confidence, as has been recently postulated, but how does the constant exposure to self portraits and digitally manipulated images change the recognition of self? Does it expand it from what is to a larger conception of what could be? Or does it make self recognition more difficult?
As a scientist these questions fascinate me, but I am not set up to answer them. That work will have to be left to others. But as an artist, it is something I am exploring in great depth. I’ll talk about it at length when I write about the “Mirror Series” and how it came about.
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