Exercise: Autobiographical self-portraiture

Reflections on the work outlined in the Project 1 of Part 3 – Putting yourself in the picture.


How do the images make me feel?

I think that the images of Francesca Woodman and Elina Brotherus are completely honest and revealing whereas, to me, Gillian Wearing’s images in Album conceal more than they reveal.

  • Francesca Woodman is opening her mind to the viewer, you can almost feel what she is going through and the sense of vulnerability and constriction that she must be feeling.
  • Elina Brotherus – it helps to know the background of the IVF treatment – once this is clear then we share her world and her concerns. The sense of frustration and disappointment in the images is palpable.
  • Gillian Wearing’s work is a very clever artifice that is immaculately achieved. But does it really tell us anything about her? – to me it is more concealing than revealing – she hasn’t given herself to the viewer in the way that Woodman and Brotherus have – her work is more challenging to the viewer of relating who and what she is to the superficial appearance of her relatives. Can photographs reveal this inner person?


Is there an element of Narcissism?

I don’t personally see any element of narcissism in the photos. Narcissus faded away because he was enchanted by the beauty of his own reflection in a pol of water. This isn’t the case with these artists, they are each sharing their own viewpoint with the viewer. In their case it is about the artist’s state of mind that is being projected, not how they look.


Brotherus’ Nakedness

I think that Elina Brotherus’ nakedness is an indication of her vulnerability – it emphasises her femininity and the traditional child-bearing role of the woman – but removes all protection from her, leaving her at the mercy of the elements.


Accompanying text.

Can the images work without the accompanying text? All the images ‘work’ when they stand alone but they are far less powerful than when the text explains the background and they are displayed as a series.


Wider issues

Each of the artists is addressing wider issues but through their personal experience of it e.g. Francesca Woodman’s images reveal her state of mind but then provoke wider questions around mental health and society. Equally Elina Brotherus’ series is about her reaction to IVF but this is an issue faced by many thousands of people.