Portraits are something we are faced with (pun intended) everyday. Cameras have made it possible for everyone to capture their likeness and as I studied the relationship between photography and portraits, I discovered there is actually a lot more to creating an image of a person than its physical accuracy. So one rainy afternoon my flat mates were hood winked into the first of many photography projects. The idea: Write one word on a piece of paper that describes something they want to be MORE of, e.g decisive, generous, and daring. Here are the resulting images, with slightly edited text:
It was truly fascinating to see what people came up with. Some took longer than others, some answers were surprising, but by doing this, I looked at the way, when a portrait is taken, the subject wants to be shown in a particular light. From this, I as the artist am in a unique position of power, to decide whether or not they get to be shown in that way. I chose whether or not their individuality gets taken away. By placing many portraits of different people together, the only way to keep that individuality is by the word they have chosen and displayed. An interesting tension between physical accuracy and inner character arises when the subject is asked to describe themselves.
However, so to add to this idea, I wanted to take away the subject’s exact likeness. In this way, it is a portrait, as they have that word. What I quickly realised was that again tension was created when I drew in the faces rather than leave the photographic likeness:
While the subject still has recognisable features, there is now a disconcerting element to the portraits. A side point is that interestingly enough, the words people choose where, for each individual, perfect words as to how I as their friend saw them, and yet they are claiming they want to have more of that quality. This introduces ideas of how one views one self and how they actually are perceived by the outer world. A third party had no other indication other than the word on the piece of paper about the character of this person, and from that, they assume it is true. Our minds find it hard to believe what the camera depicts as anything other than truth. I as the photographer know whether or not my subjects are the characteristics they chose to display. This was a very interesting project and I encourage you to think about these aspects next time you are taking candid snapshots.
Thank you to all my flat mates who partook in this!
Here are some of the out-takes from this shoot:
You can read more from Anna here