Below is the proposal I recently submitted for the Photographic Practice module. It's rather long for a blog post - the first part explains the theoretical approach and reasoning, the second half goes into detail of the practicalities of producing the work. If you want to know simply what I will be doing, and see sample images of those intended projects, then scroll down to the 'Plan/Schedule' heading.
‘Gorgeous’ George Rippon
Me, My Reflection and Him
The Self-indulgence of Gorgeous George
Description of subject to be investigated
I am interested in the persona that we present in order to display our desired qualities. Our relationship with our reflections and the images of ourselves that we experience, are significant in the conscious creation and adjustment of this public self. I’m seeking to examine the response of the individual to their awareness of their own absorption with their presented image. This response includes self-mockery, self-indulgence, narcissism and an admittance of a need for recognition. Moreover, I’m interested in the manner in which this performance is continued, and what relationship then ensues between the ‘reflective-private' and the ‘performed-public' selves.
“I love acting. It is so much more real than life.” Oscar Wilde
Within the field of self-portraiture there has always been some kind of exploration into identity. Because we are aware of the capability of an image to depict (in the case of portraits) a person’s character, we are then conscious of the level of performance that manifests from the subject. Since in self-portraits the artist is both subject and creator, there is often an analysis and manipulation of the performance from both angles. When artists use self-portraiture to question the different versions of presented ‘self’, their approach is fundamentally relevant, due to the insight they hold of ultimate knowledge and access to the subject.
The following practitioners form the context to this study because they are engaged in the variance that exists between a conscious performance and a natural behaviour. The works of Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura, are concerned largely with masquerade and elaborate performances; however, in consistently using themselves as the subject, there is an element of their own character underlying their play-acting. Alternatively, Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and the collaboration of Patrick Tsai and Madi Ju’s My Little Dead Dick, are both strongly autobiographical works, although a sense of performance (or the possibility of) to the camera can be inferred. Claude Cahun’s work has a strong case for illustrating the perpetual (and destined to fail) efforts of artists to discover their true self behind recognised personas: “Under the mask is another mask, I will never finish lifting all these faces.” (1930, cited in Bright, 2010). Anita Khemka obfuscates what is staged and what is spontaneous by taking her self-portraits in public places, allowing the environment and people around her to contribute to the result. Bas Jan Ader appears to give the rawest insight into his personality in I’m Too Sad to Tell You, and yet by using photography and video to document his expression, still leaves the viewer questioning to what extent his behaviour is genuine or performed.
The following issues are also relevant: the philosophical debate of the notion of ‘self’ – suggested to be an entity that merely perceives (Hume); the psychological arguments concerning the ego and alter ego (Freud) and the ego, other, Other, and subject (Lacan); the anthropological discussion around the use of webcams and Youtube for self-performance (Wesch).
My standpoint on this investigation is an inquisitive one, attempting to unravel and perhaps ameliorate a complex I have with my continual introspection: I’m always thinking about myself and wondering why.
Plan/Schedule of work
1. 1. A set of self-portraits using a two-way mirror, so I look at and interact with my reflection rather than a lens, but line up the eyesight to give the impression of a straight portrait, aiming for high clarity and minimum background detail (similar lighting and composition to Emma Sailah’s Mirror Mirror). I will then re-enact the extreme facial performances as done to the bathroom mirror - to investigate: my altering of presentation; relationship between inner (thought) and outer (visible) selves; attempting humour; challenging attractive appearance.
‘Hannah’ and ‘Minh Ai’ from Mirror Mirror by Emma Sailah.
Test images using normal mirror with a hole in its centre for the lens. One diffused light above camera. Poor focus is an error, background will have no detail, composition is suitable, lighting needs to improve. Images ©George Rippon. All Rights Reserved.
2. A similar process to above, with others in front of the mirror – where I photograph them attempting to copy my extravagant facial contortions, as a means of continuing the humour, and exploring the universality of the face (relevant to physiognomy). Perhaps also ask them to photograph themselves, to make their own self-portraits, with cable release or remote – to see how they respond given the opportunity to present a desired look.
3. 3. As a continuation of my Self Videos, produce a regularly updated diary of webcam performances - displaying a general indulgence of trivial aspects of my personality, experiences, thoughts etc – investigating further the desire to be celebrity/revered/known through attempted humour.
4. 4. A self-portrait of pixels (I can't paint) – using a mirror, and Adobe Photoshop – ‘painting’ with various colours, various brush sizes, producing several pieces – forming an overall progression, striving towards a realistic portrait (eventually looking like a photograph). Inspired by the Johannes Gumpp painting of himself in the act of painting a self-portrait (likewise Norman Rockwell’s Triple Self-portrait), I plan to investigate in what manner and with what adjustments I will reproduce my image.
Self-Portrait with Mirror and Canvas by Johannes Gumpp
Pixel-Painted Self-Portrait #1 and #2
Making of Pixel-Painted Self-Portrait
5. 5. I’m a ... (artist) - a series of videos in which I attempt to prove my creative multi-talents (musician, actor, painter, etc.), but which ultimately highlight myself as a failure and fool, wanting appreciation – inspired in part by Bjorn Veno’s promotional videos for PXSnatch.
6. 6. A video piece based on my Body (own) collage where each image is moving rather than still. However the movement will be very subtle, aiming to give the impression of a still image on first glance, and then following with the realisation that the body is moving/breathing/alive. Similar motive to the original piece – to present own body in unflattering manner – but with heightened representation.
· Fine art/gallery community – aiming to attract attention at exhibition in London held during a week where photography is highly popular in the area due to degree shows. This to be at a gallery (The Rag Factory) which is establishing itself as a popular venue at the time of these events. The intention is to involve other established practitioners, to elevate the exhibition above a student degree show and encourage a larger footfall, and also the potential to make connections with curators/gallerists etc. There is the chance of the exhibition being reviewed owing to the supporting factors above, which will further enhance the publicity. Additionally, there has been a recent growth of interest in contemporary self-portrait photography with the publication of Susan Bright’s book Auto Focus.
· Online – a personal blog, George Rippon Photography which is updated regularly with latest work, ideas and research; combined with a Twitter account as a means of spreading the work to a remote audience (aiming to increase interested following, particularly those based in London in lead-up to the exhibition). Utilising social media to present and build up a recognised brand name – YouTube channel, Twitter account, and a video blog, all as ‘GorgeousGeorgeo’.
· YouTube viewers – humour is popular, short videos, a homemade aesthetic is well accepted. There is a potential to go viral, although this seems to be down to chance and is very much a snowball effect. If popularity is found on YouTube, then considering the nature of the project and its delivery, an interest could follow from the fine art community.
· Academic – as the project is based on the reflection of photographic imagery in self-portraiture, its content may be relevant in the study of photography theory/behaviour. There is also a relevance to research in the fields of philosophy, psychology, anthropology and other areas in which the notion of ‘self’ is questioned.
Anticipated method of presentation
· Two-way mirror project (1.) – large prints of oversize face, to give impression of “Ah it’s a big face!” – so as to show off their absurdity, and impress/oppress my image upon others.
· Potentially include a two-way mirror as a means of involving the viewer. Place a large rear-projected print behind a two-way mirror, with the projection light triggered by motion (similar to a burglar light) so an apparent mirror turns into a picture as viewers pass.
· And/or a video camera concealed behind a two-way mirror, with the footage output delayed and shown to the side - so people can play to/with their reflection and then view it moments after.
· Video projection – of selected ‘self-videos’ (3. & 5.).
· Medium prints (40x40cm) making a progression piece of pixel-painted self-portrait (4.).
· May have smaller prints of mirror portraits of others (2.).
· Blog of videos (like diary updates) and a YouTube channel – refer to Ask A Ninja/What I Wore Today – comical, intending to have the potential to develop a mass following.
· Simple web gallery of mirror portraits (one for self-portraits, one for others) (1. & 2.)
· An interactive view of the pixel-painted portrait, with a slider so it can be quickly seen how the portrait developed. See Girlpower –Retouch
· Two-way mirror – £44.48
· Wood and construction materials for mirror stand – £40 - £50
· Construction tools and assistance – provided.
· Loan of Hasselblad H3DII with 50mm lens from Calumet for 2 days – £530*
· Prints for ‘Two-way mirror’ project:
Option 1 – 3x 110x110cm prints on fibre based paper, mounted on 5mm Foamboard (from The Print Bureau, Coventry) at £69.58 ea = £208.74.
Option 2 – 3x 101x101cm Giclee prints, mounted on DiBond with battens, and acrylic seal, incl. delivery (from The Printspace, London) at £326.54 ea = £979.62*
· Prints for ‘Pixel painted self-portrait’ project:
Option 1 – 6x 40x40cm prints on resin coated paper, mounted and laminated on 3mm Foamboard (Print Bureau) at £8 ea = £48
Option 2 – 10x 40x40cm C-type matt prints, mounted on 3mm Foamex with acrylic seal, incl. delivery (Printspace) at £63.68 ea = £636.80*
· Blog space and YouTube channel – free.
· Web domain and hosting – already owned.
· Projection equipment with audio – provided.
· DSLR camera, studio space, lighting equpiment – provided.
· Video camera and editing software – provided.
· Normal mirror, Adobe Photoshop software, Apple iMac desktop computer incl. webcam – already owned.
* indicates a non-essential but ‘ideal’ expense.
Total minimum (essential) budget: £341.22
Total maximum (ideal) budget: £2,240.90