Autobiographical Self Portraiture

I looked up the artists that are mentioned in the course and ended up spending quite some time looking at their images, reading articles and watching related YouTube movies. It's quite fascinating to see in which ways the artists open themselves up, some in a very controversial and somewhat shocking way, like Terney Gearon and Elinor Carucci, other artists, especially Richard Billingham and Gillian Wearing have made very conscious decisions on how far they go with showing their private lives. 

The reader says that the photographers 'who use self portraiture as a means of self exploration tend to be unafraid of expressing who they are through the medium. The camera allows them to focus on themselves and their situations in a detached and almost observational manner.' This is what stuck with me most and my thoughts with looking at the imagery were constantly if I would dare to take the same images? Would I portray my parents and children in such a way? What would my husband think of it? Would it be interesting enough in the first place? etc. 

Because I had already finished the assignment for this part before starting it, I recognize these questions when I was working on my diary project as well. In some cases I am a bit ashamed of how I used to think and therefor left out a few quotes that were actually quite typical for who I used to be. Now I am rethinking this and wondering if it is necessary to really want to show it all in order to be a good artist?

I actually don't think so. Thinking again about Francesca Wood's parents, Gillian Wearing and Richard Billingham, who focused mainly on the form and function of the art. Even though for others it might still be perceived as very personal and open, they deliberately made choices in what they showed in their work and what they chose to exhibit and what not. 

So on to the questions in the reader!

About the artists and narcissism
I find Brotherus' images a little bit boring and bland. They don't really trigger a lot of excitement. I looked up her images on her website and they all seem to be about herself, how she sees herself, looks at herself, how others look at her and how she looks at others. The story of her failed IVF is very sad of course, and reading the text and captions does bring about empathy and understanding of feeling such a loss, but I do find the images very unappealing and not stirring a lot of emotions. The same with her being a stranger in an other country and how she responds to her new environment. My main sense while looking at her work was 'get over yourself'. Not very nice, sorry. 

About nakedness
I'm still wondering about the significance of nakedness in the work of all the artists that I just studied. There seems to be a difference between Brotherus' on one side and Carucci and Gearon on the other. Brotherus is showing her body only, unrelated to other people and focuses on the way she looks and feels. There's also a notion of the display of the beauty of her body and how that is looked at and percieved. In Carucci and Gearon's work on the other hand, their nakedness is related to a certain concept, like how far intimacy can go with familly members and when does it start to feel threatening (Gearon)? How is it that there are certain parts of our body that we try to hide (hair around nipples and in armpits) and why do they evoke such strong feelings of disgust? Even though some of this kind of work might be shocking, it certainly evokes feelings and questions. There is an element of beauty in the images, but it doesn't seem to have been added there on purpose.

About accompanying text
Certain artists have a very narrative way of photographing. For example, I found Carucci's images very open for interpretation and was drawn into the image without needing extra information. However, it is always interesting to read the ideas behind images and sometimes discover that I had come up with very different ideas. However, I find that Brotherus images only became interesting after reading her captions. Concluding, I think most depends on the visual clues in an image and how provoking they are in order to decide whether it needs captions. 

About wider issues
It's interesting to see how some artists can portray a very personal feeling or history and still be able to open it up for very different interpretations or bring in a universal theme that speaks to many. Maybe autobiographical self-portraits might me one of the most effective ways to address wider issues, like infertility, family relations, self worth, etc. You always feel most connected and drawn into a subject when there is a real person expressing it with a personal story behind the image.

I really like doing these kind of exercises and find it very enriching and stimulating to look up and read about other artists.

Elina Brotherus (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Cavendish, L. (2013) Elinor Carucci: The mother of all photographers. Available at: (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Tierney Gearon photography - home - creator of the alphabet book (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Skidmore, M. and AnOther (2015) The many selves of Gillian wearing. Available at: (Accessed: 22 March 2016).