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As He Wishes To Be Seen II

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I really like that last shot.

Thanks! It's kind of weird, but captures something. Don't ask me what!


Sorry so inarticulate! It made me think of a recent photo I took of myself but did not have nerve to post.

I hesitated every so slightly myself, but I guess I'm finally at the stage of life where how I look seems less and less relevant to anything! On the other hand, I often liberally doctor my images with Photoshop to soften the deep wrinkles, sags, and blemishes. Oh, well.

On the self-revelatory (or self-hiding) aspects of self-portraiture, here's an interesting bit from a review in today's Huffington Post of the book “Thinking Photography With Diane Arbus and Errol Morris,” by Michael Roth, President, Wesleyan University:

"Photographs edit reality; they conceal even as they reveal. But Morris doesn't rest at this level of generality. He wants to determine how this picture edits a particular reality, how that photographer tends to conceal certain aspects of reality in order to highlight others. Morris asks whether a photograph can document reality, function as propaganda and also be art. His answer is a resounding yes. The mysteries of photography stem in part from its never being able to tell the whole truth but almost always having something to say about the ways things were." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-roth/thinking-photography-with_b_1002707.html

[Or, how they ought to be, from John Palcewski’s limited point of view!]

Thank you for this.

That's an interesting list of things to think about (reality/propaganda/art) when considering any artwork, not just photography.

I somehow like reading your self-portraits alongside your smiling icon. Is the smile back there behind the serious moments, or vice-versa?

What features we create or select for and against in self-portraits is not often enough discussed. I think it could be a liberating conversation.

I replace my fb photo around twice a month and I have a huge catalog of them built up. They've become some sort of visual history I can't bear to delete.

Supposedly this much attention to profile pix suggests I'm a class A narcissist with no religion beyond image management. But I started this because I want my mother on the other side of the world to know I'm alive and ok and seeing is believing. Before I expatted, I rarely bothered to update my profile pix once I had one I liked... I had the other problem of really no longer resembling "that person."

And then once I was updating that often, I started noticing I really liked some better than others.

In response to an article in today’s Gawker about Steve Jobs being a control freak when his picture was being taken by professionals, a comment from “MsAndreaDworkin” seemed to hit the mark:

“Successful people and artists are very particular about things, including how they look in photos. I'm not surprised.”

As for self-portraits we can’t ever really know an artist’s or an author’s intent, but deep down we think we can. Your “For the Moirai,” for instance, seems to me to be a sort of extended self portrait that represents the terror a woman experiences living with or being married to a brutal, controlling man. Your title tells me the high wire is the thread of life spun by the three old lame women who appear at the birth of man. Walking that thread requires great skill, but a fatal fall is always only a second away. The woman in the lower left, seated safely, practices in preparation for her balancing act, which is always demanded by her oppressor.

All this is in color, but nevertheless it evokes the kind of dark and violent undercurrents that run through Fellini’s La strada. Also in Plath's Daddy: "Every woman adores a Fascist,/The boot in the face, the brute/Brute heart of a brute like you."

But I hasten to say all that is entirely in my head, and very well may not be in yours!

I don’t think being into image management indicates Narcissism at all. Joyce said the duty of the artist is to shape the experiences that have shaped her. He also said amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, was the only true thing in life.

For me, smiling during a self-portrait seems unnatural, so my icon and bio pic is wholly and intentionally ironic. I don’t wish to be seen as being really OK with the insanity that surrounds me, politically, environmentally, and so on. For a long time I also didn’t want to be seen as a really OLD man, and would use Photoshop to soften my deep wrinkles, sags, blemishes. But now, this morning actually, I used a high f stop and overhead flash to bring into sharp focus every single crease on my face. I’m surprised and pleased how liberating it felt.

Edited at 2011-10-12 06:21 pm (UTC)

Here's an example of what circulated about fb and narcissists.


Thanks for the further comments on your self portraits and your intent for them. Do you connect these conversations with this morning's high focus self-portrait? I'm glad to hear it was liberating. I'd like to be at peace with what the camera sees, which isn't the same as sharing all with everyone. I can't control the photos of myself that end up on fb/the internet after receptions, so some peace of mind around this is a practical matter.

And thank you for your reading of "For the Moirai." It's helpful to me to get reads on my work (they are entirely diff. than "crits", and reads are so very useful).

Yes, my sudden impulse to make some high-definition images sprang from our conversation, although when I started yesterday I didn’t actually think of it that way. As I was setting up the equipment I felt a glimmer of an idea that excessively enhancing my self-portraits was in fact admitting I was enslaved by a worry about what others might think of me, and I thought, hell, why not finally put that bullshit aside and just freely reveal my appearance as it actually IS, rather than cowardly masking it.

And then afterward when I downloaded and reviewed the images it became an aesthetic exercise in cropping in as tightly as possible, punching up contrast, making each as dramatic and arresting as possible. I recalled that thing about when you’re in a nightmare and you’re being chased by an evil demon, the best thing to do is to stop, turn around, and embrace it. The demon invariably dissolves into nothingness.

I’m usually just a bit hesitant to offer up my interpretations of others’ work because it seems presumptuous and invasive, etc., so I’m glad you found my comments useful. Your work speaks to me in a clear and powerful way, and it’s more like a recognition of something familiar rather than a first-time encounter, if that makes any sense.

I like the first and last in particular - but best of all I like your cheery profile pic.

Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty We're Free At Last!!!

Thanks! My cheery profile picture was taken with my camera by a former corporate colleague of mine at a lunch reunion not too long ago. This person's brutal, demeaning, almost sadistic management style made a great number of people miserable, including me. My good cheer sprang from the fact that a long time ago I had escaped the soul-murder of the corporate culture, whereas this person was still enslaved.

Re: Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty We&#39;re Free At Last!!!

Ha, ha! Someone recently told me. 'When people are awful to you, their punishment is that they are them and you are you.'

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