Self Portraiture – some further thoughts

“It’s about the messages in the narrative and what they say, rather than the subject in the frame!”

The term self-portraiture did conjure up for me something a little self-indulgent, not necessarily narcissistic but some that was intrinsically about self. I think this conception had been reinforced by the [torrent of ‘selfies’ on social media but also the transition into wider culture of the notion of the selfie. By this I mean that even though I am only a partial user of social media the selfie is now part of the experience of being out in the world. On a recent visit to Cambridge there were more tourists taking selfies than there were tourists tank photographs of the environment.


Indeed the selfie as the popular manifestation of the self portraits has become ubiquitous.

It was therefore very good to read the material in part two of the of the Context and Narrative module which sheds a somewhat different light on the use of the self portrait. Rather than self absorbtion I can now see that the self portraiture, beyond being an easy and reliable source for the photographer , it can tell of bigger things. I was very much struck in particle by the work of Brotherus and the rich narrative around loss, strength and how people can move on. Morrissey’s exploration of the genre of the family photograph, which like the contemporary selfie has a specific and repeatable formulea, can be a vehicle to explore the nature of relationships . Perhaps most starkly is Sherman’s work. Her iconic film like images are instantly recognisable stereotypes of female figures, suggesting a social construct n of the feminine image and persona, raising issues about control and influence and how images in contemapary culture may have a darker implication.

In an oblique form of exploration the self portrait can be as revealing as the documentary  photographer when distilled down to the message in the narrative and the thoughts and ideas  engendered  in the viewer. I’ll return to this theme again as I move through to the next exercise.




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