The photo album as an archive for significant events and people. With the migration from the physical album to the digital archive we are more likely to view photographs on a smartphone than an album page. However, images are often viewed fleetingly via swiping on a screen – e.g. Snapchat and its 10 second showing. We look, consume, move on.
Kessels installation of photographs uploaded to Flickr within 24 hours is referred to as here and I wrote about this after seeing it at the Arles Festival here . In this Phaeton article here he makes an interesting point regarding the paradox that everything is moving towards perfection in digital photography, “Yet we have these applications on our phones to fuck up our photographs, to make them look overexposed or with flares on them”. I hadn’t looked at it that way before.
The emergence of the ‘selfie’
Kessels installation images look as if ripped from family album, but they are from a day on Flickr. With the use of the camera phone there has been a rise in the popularity of self-portrait to introduce oneself to others – aided by the front camera so you can see your pose. this creates a whole new set of dilemmas – what type of self-portrait to pose, how should I look etc. A quote from Fontcuberta, I Photograph Therefore I Am – (2014 p.17) reminding us how far back the ambassadorial use of portraits as a form of introduction goes in arranging noble marriages.
Inserting self into pictures in unusual ways – Irish artist Trish Morrissey (staging herself and her sister in ‘tightly controlled fictional mise en scene based on the conventions of family snapshots” and Dutch photographer Hans Eljkelboom, who rang the doorbell in the afternoon whilst the husband/father of the house was away at work. If the wife and children were in, he photographed himself between them as the father of the house. He also set himself the task of being a bystander in images appearing in the same newspaper. Erik Kessels reviewed Eljkelboom’s work here
Manipulated self-portraits/representations through photomontage and collage works of photography and film, examining issues around identity, the dislocation of the subjects and the interrogation. the video is slow-moving. Eyes flowing as tears fading into Skull behind the face. Young person growing from tree. Woman peering down at pile of film flowing from her eyes. 3.36 painted snake (slowly becoming darker) , with face underneath. Triptych – Contact sheet between two portraits, turns into pieces of a naked woman masturbating. Overlaid and then taken over by a girl with sewn up lips and no nose. Crossed/rubbed out by wire or something similar that looks like scribbles. A hanging light then becomes predominant. The triptych darkens so only the light is seen.
Joan Fontcuberta (2014) Fugitive Identities
At the beginning of this chapter in his book Pandora’s Camera Fontcuberta looks at motivations for and responses to political graffiti in both Europe (slogans on the walls of the Sorbonne in May 1968) and America. “To establish power and to narrow minds, raffiti was not a form of protest but a criminal activity that had to be stamped out” (2012:92) whereas the thrill and risk of it acted as a rite of passage; marking of territory: definition of areas of influence and statements of identity – “fragmented identities in motion …. Like a flowing ever on, never staying in one place.” Continuing with this theme, Fontcuberta then considers artists who have looked at identity and how it might fluctuate for the same person according to place/space.
Isabelle Eshragi portrayed how she changes “identity” on her journeys between Paris and Tehran. In her series Reservate Sinje Dillenkofer photographed senior female executives dressed for work then invited them, in their own home, to stage and enact some secret fantasy. Fontcuberta proposes Annie Sprinkle, an ex Porn star, as a post-feminist who encourages women to take on males where they are most vulnerable – in their desire. With The Transformation Salon Sprinkle took advantage of a commission to produce portrait photographs of participants in an amateur striptease contest. She used a Polaroid camera to take deliberately rough before photographs to show the two realities of everyday life and the world of desire that can be bought. Exaggerating to make a point – well, that’s one way I suppose. Her website is an eye-opener so I’m choosing not to include a link here.
Fontcuberta then looks at photographers who have used digital techniques to such as cloning and layers to examine the notion of identity. Vibeke Tandberg (referred to above) produced Living Together an album of memories of a non-existent family. She produced a series of snapshots of two young sisters – identical, but too identical – raising the question of which one was real and which a double and adding a “diffuse fear that perhaps we can no longer distinguish between appearance and reality, reality and simulacrum, or original and reproduction” (2012:96). Fontcuberta also refers to Wendy McMurdo’s work around this topic. In 1995 McMurdo produced In A Shaded Place where ‘Doppelgangers were created through the use of multiple images to arouse a sense of the ‘uncanny’ in the viewer and there is a very interesting article here where she discusses this with artist Sheila Lawson. I’m finding it interesting that, on the one hand, we humans might have these fears pointed towards by Fontcuberta and yet, on the other hand, on many occasions we have the desire to dress like other people; behave in similar ways, so as to belong conform to a notion of group identity as opposed to individual identity. Paul Smith explored what is ‘masculinity’ and his desire to join the Army in his degree project Artists Rifles . There are further examples – Dalia Chauveau’s cloning agency that produces virtual clones to order (after several searches I cannot find this on the Web), and, in fiction, Stanislaw Lem and “The Star Diaries” voyages of an astronaut who, on his thirteenth journey ends up on a planet where the inhabitants all have exactly the same face. The story is here on YouTube if you wish to listen.
Fontcuberta touches more upon new digital technologies at the end of the chapter and how this touches upon all aspects of abstract construction of reality and this is something I will return to later in the Module whilst retaining the notion of ‘Windows’ and how many can be kept open at any one time – “The life practice of Windows is that of a decentered self that exists in many worlds, that plays many roles at the same time” (2012:102)
Fontcuberta, J. (2014)’ Fugitive Identities’ In Fontcuberta, J. Pandora’s Camera, UK, Mack pp. 91-103.