I’m just not that into me- a comment on self-portaiture

For some reason today I was reminded of the annual Graduation show for The Ottawa University Fine Art students. Every year the department throws a huge party and the entire building is transformed into a gallery for graduating students to showcase visual art.

For the most part the art on display at the Grad show is phenomenal but there were always a few notable exceptions. Students who received the most jeers were photographers whose final work consisted entirely of empty poster sized self-portraits.

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled 6 from her 1978 photo series that comments on the stereotypes of women protected in the media.

The cover of Cindy Sherman’s book “Centerfolds”

While self portraiture can be a noble, expressive, art that comments on our social world. Think Cindy Sherman. It can also be narcissistic if oneself is the only subject a photographer can find inspiration in.

On a personal level, I like to have my portrait taken and do feel that self-reflection is valid self-expression. However, I want my photographs be valued for their own meaning independent from mine. Yes, as photographers we do need to market ourselves and an attractive picture is a good tool for that.

The cover of Nan Goldin’s 1986 photography book “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency”.

A photograph Goldin took after she had been beaten by her lover.

However, notable self portraits has meaning not for displays of beauty but instead for projections of a fully lived life. Displays of insecurity, sadness, love, hurt, and pain. Think Nan Goldin. The audience relates to the photographer through raw emotions as opposed to a produced aesthetic they project.


3 Responses to “I’m just not that into me- a comment on self-portaiture”

  1. 1 Luke
    October 6, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Hi Dr. Joanna Rees,

    Something seems wrong with Nan Goldin…..why would she get beaten to just take a photo of it…unless she was projecting the shock value which is definately there!

    I guess sometimes life is not as pretty as we all like to think it is…..i would have to read more on Nan’s reasonings to putting up these photos. But i have no inclination on such destrubing topics.

  2. March 5, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Good interpretation, but I think hardly could be apllied to life.

  3. May 31, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I have been looking around jorees.wordpress.com and really am impressed by the amazing content here. I work the nightshift at my job and it really gets boring. I’ve been coming right here for the past couple nights and reading. I simply needed to let you know that I’ve been enjoying what I’ve seen and I look forward to reading more.

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