Francesca Woodman creates haunting self portraits, which become more poignant when knowing she suffered from depression and took her own life at the age of 22. Her work was arguably not noticed while she was alive, but after her tragic death the work took on a whole new meaning and gave importance to it.
Using herself within her work was a matter of convince as she was always available to use. Woodman often used long exposures to create the ghost figures within her work, playing with they idea of death. Her work often consisted of reoccurring symbols such as skulls and birds which have their own meaning. The use of black and white further plays on the idea of death and depression.
“Am I in the picture? Am I getting in or out of it? I could be a ghost, an animal or a dead body, not just this girl standing on the corner …?” Woodman once stated.
Laura Zalenga’s work is predominantly self portraiture, using epic landscapes as a backdrop for her images.
She often appears without clothes in her work which for me creates a vulnerability and rawness. This is something I often do within my own work for the same reason, vulnerabilityShe often appears without clothes in her work which for me creates a vunrableility and rawness. This is something I often do within my own work for the same reason.
She uses a lot of negative space within her work, allowing the landscapes to consume her, so she becomes lost. This once again plays on the idea vulnerability.
Zalenga describes her work as being melancholic, yet talks about how she finds peace with this. ‘Again and again I wonder why I prefer the mood of the darker photos. I have always been in love with melancholy. To me there is a peaceful beauty about it. Maybe it’s because we really need the darkness to fully enjoy the bright moments and we need some sadness to value the happiness.’
Over the last few months I experienced symptoms of depersonalisation – feeling disconnected from myself and everything around me. I experience this when my anxiety is heightened, and wanted to photograph this experience.
I have previously experimented with self portraits being out of focus, yet I feel this is more appropriate now than before. It represents trying get a grip of reality when instead you can’t seem to focus on anything around you.
For me the third photo in the series is slightly to out of focus, which leaves the viewer unable to make out what they are looking at. However, I was especially pleased with the second photo, using the colour of my hair a visual anchor within the images.
Continuing with the experimentation of photographing the body, I wanted to focus on the concept of how anxiety makes you hate yourself.
Although the marks left on my body within these images are physical, it represents the scars that mental illnesses leave as well as the struggle in having confidence within yourself.
Technically I am pleased with how the photos turned out. Using just natural light to create the images, I feel the blacked out background works well in highlighting the body, as well giving the images negative feel to them. I purposely didn’t include my face as I wanted the anonymity to give a feeling of uneasiness.
I want to shoot these images again, experimenting with photographing them outside, using the landscape in background to add mood to the images.
After looking into the work of Ashvini Ray, I wanted to experiment myself with photographing the body close up, rather than the tradition ‘full body’ portraits I usually produce.
Unlike Ray I chose to photograph in colour, as I felt it gave the work more of an uncomfortable feel, which is the aim of my project. I purposely focused on the small details such as the chipped nail polish which further adds the the feeling of unease.
If i was to carry on with this idea within my project I would focus on the physical symptoms of anxiety such as the close up of sweating palms or close up of the mouth to show shortness of breath.
Ashvini Ray’s work focuses on close ups on of the body finding beauty in the little details.
She states in an interview ‘the fact that these “things” essentially make up who we are’. I find this relatable to mental health because close ups of the body can not only represent the physical symptoms of mental health, but focus on the idea of body confidence. The use of black and white creates less distraction, and enables the viewer to see what they are focusing on more. It would be interesting to see this style of photography in colour, further highlighting the intensity of focusing in on the body.
Although Ray states her work finds beauty within the body, I find the work slightly unsettling, but in a good way. The intense close up’s for me highlight the imperfections, making the viewer feel uncomfortable. Focusing on specific parts of the body is something I want to focus on myself, instead of simply taking traditional portraiture style images.
‘Kev’s work highlights his frustration, despair and sense of isolation from living with anxiety for the past twelve years, using his student accommodation as the site for Disorder.’ – Fragmentary.org.
I relate straight away to the work of Kev Hawken, which highlights the feelings that come with suffering from anxiety. The fact it was shot within student accommodation is especially relatable to me, as this is where my own personal anxiety became a lot worse.
The mix of colour and black and white photography is something that is not often seen, yet I feel works well in creating a feeling of unease. As previously mentioned I want to combine self portraiture with landscapes/objects, which is something that Hawken does well within his work. Not only does he directly use himself to represent these feelings of unease, but creates abstract landscapes combined with documentary shots to show the effects of living with a mental illness.
After being inspired by James Schofields work, I wanted to experiment with the idea of using objects to portray a feeling, rather than using people.
I chose to use flowers, looking at the something that will deteriorates over time. For me the two images together represent the idea of having hope and loosing hope – a constant battle that those suffering with mental health face. I used a muted colour palette, inspired by photographers I have previously mentioned as I feel it causes little distraction. It also gives a feeling of solitude, especially when looking at the second image of the dying flowers.
James Schofields work uses abstract photography as a way to express his struggles with mental health. When describing the work he states it ‘explores and reconciles my own struggles with mental illness and the ever increasing notion of feeling disconnected from the world’.
His work is inspired from the feelings associated with mental illness, such as solitude. He interestedly photographs in black and white which I feel adds to the feeling of loneliness and solitude. He claims that it doesn’t date like colour photography – trends with colour photography will change, yet black and white does’t date as quick.
He chose to represent the book images in the format of a book, which means that the images are read as a narrative and as Schofield describes – ‘everything can just be part of what’s going on in this little world I’ve created for myself’. I’m looking myself to produce a book for this module, for a similar reason to James Schofield. I want the images to be viewed in a sequence rather than individually, showing a ‘narrative’ of what it is like to suffer with a mental illness.
I’m massively inspired by the way James Schofield doesn’t necessarily use people within his work to represent mental health, but instead used objects to hint at the idea. This is something that I have previously done myself, using landscapes to imply a feeling. I want to experiment with this idea further, as simply producing just self portraiture could become boring and repetitive.
Gabriel Isak cleverly combines landscapes with his subjects to give the impression of loneliness throughout his work.
‘I work a lot with self-portraiture, but it’s always anonymous and abstract, for the reason that my work is so personally inspired that I know exactly how I want the subject to look in an image.’ The above quote is taken from an interview on fragmentary.com, with Isak describing his reasons for using self-portraiture. I relate to this quote a lot, using my myself because I can easily express what I am trying to portray.
He also talks about how he doesn’t give away the meaning behind each image as he wants each viewer to make up their own mind and have their own option on the concept of each image. The subject is always anonymous, often similar to my work. Muted colour tones have also been used once again which gives the work a dream like feeling, but also plays on the feeling of loneliness further.