Yes, I know I haven’t done a post on Gillian Wearing yet. I did do it, but have somehow managed to delete it and will have to write it again. In this first section on the self portrait, I have looked at autobiographical self portraits, where the photographer is dong more than taking a simple selfie. There is a whole raft of theory attached to the selfie, but on the whole, it appears to be about recording events and projecting an image of oneself which appears to be casual, but is in fact quite manipulated. (Hardly anyone posts a selfie these days without first checking to see whether it is flattering and give the taker the image they want other people to see. As Schofield Clark outlines in this linked article(2013), they are a form of brand promotion, with the brand being oneself. (The selfie is worthy of further study, alter in the course, as it is an intriguing phenomenon.)
When one extrapolates that idea into the work of Woodman, Brotherus and Wearing, one can consider whether their work was a form of ‘art selfie’. To me, the work of Brotherus and Wearing doesn’t come into that category at all – what they are photographing is very much about the idea, and not about themselves (with a slight caveat regarding Wearing that her Album series is about her own relationship with her family.) With Woodman however, I do think there is an element of brand promotion, and the fact that the brand was her made it all the more agonising for her when it appeared to fail. (She was not to know that her death led to a series of events which gave her brand a significant amount of recognition later.)
So….. to bring this section of the module down to a single sentence, an autobiographical self-portrait is about:
producing work which is about oneself, but which illustrates something that is of more universal interest. Nobody is interested for long if our work is just about ourselves; that seems self-absorbed and narcissistic. By widening the context though, once can produce work which limits that self-indulgence, and makes viewers think about it in the context of their own lives.