Untitled Moving Portrait This moving portrait is part of an ongoing project exploring the foundations of identity which are solidified in illusion, performance and hidden behind masks. In some sense it is a work of fiction created by myself, based on the thoughts and life of Jennifer Green; Yet deals with concepts of memory and transition, each of us experience everyday of our lives.
I am really happy with the way the text connects with the image and music… I have made the voice slightly quieter than one might expect, because I just want to create that idea of unconscious / personal thoughts. The music I created, I feel supports the intense gaze and atmosphere of the visual.
After talking Anthony and Andy, I am going to try and create a second video like this with Chris. Chris and I are already developing an idea of a film – which incorporates my photography and his artwork. I have just received a reply of Chris saying his is happy to create this second film on Tuesday night, but I am having difficulty hiring out equipment at the moment.
It will be good if it goes ahead, to get the two sides of being a trans woman and a trans man, I am aware there are many other forms of gender and identities but this will still be a good set.
Andy and Anthony suggested leaving a longer pause at the end before Jennifer’s portrait fades out. But I think the way the face imprints in the back of your eyelids at the same time as the last chord is played as everything fades out has a strong effect.
I am creating a page below about Jennifer for my website:
I did not want something that made particular sense – I wanted to create a feeling that slightly touches at the peripheries of Jennifer’s life and using words that the audience can place in their own experiences and imaginations. Questions we all ask ourselves.
I try to incorporate Jennifer’s intense childhood, the girl at school she admired who was called Jennifer, the whisper growing louder is her accepting who she wants to be etc etc.
I am really pleased with the outcome of Natasha’s response to the portraits. Very honest and gives control to the subject matter over the message of the image. I am now planning on getting a few more printed for Wendy, Chris and Jennifer to carry on this portrait project.
Below are some mobile shots of the portraits that are included in my portfolio box.
Black and white image states:
“Smiling through the pain of trying to LIVE LIFE”
Colour images states:
“I smile because I don’t want people to see my suffering because I don’t want to hurt those I love & who love me. Still hiding in some ways.”
Brilliant essay, I feel my final piece really relates too. Highlighted below.
There are so many interesting points, but one that I would like to highlight is the idea that by creating this relationship between the gaze of the subject viewer and the camera – there is no peeping, which cuts off the idea of voyeurism associated with posing. This then starts to become a conscious, aware portrait one by which –
“I see you, seeing me, so you cannot steal this look”.
This is significant in regards to gender, there is a long standing culture of objectifying and fetishising bodies and thus people – that they no longer belong to themselves but the surveyor. I hope my moving portrait breaks this norm much in the same way Djikstras work has successfully done so. Thus bringing awareness and acceptance surrounding issues of trans people and being an empowering peace as well.
“If I can’t conceal myself, how can you be sure that you are able to, either?”
Cindy Sherman is an iconic artist who pushed and questioned the stereotypes and social constructs of gender – particulary in regards to addressing the idea of identity performance.
Sherman addressed the idea of the male gaze and this is something I feel that is present in my work – the gaze. Not the male gaze, but a gaze. Cindy turned the camera on herself and played with role play.
My video quite literally is an intense long gaze – between the subject matter and the camera. It allows the viewer to unapologicatlly stare at the subject matter, without the subject matter or photographer present. To the extent, that one feels uncomfortable.
Acknowledging the triangle of the audience, camera and subject matter, which I’ve discussed previously.
Unlike Sherman’s work which are eloborate in costume and make-up – i’ve stripped away all items that the audiences uses to understand a person.
At 62, Cindy Sherman is a cultural touchstone and a beloved presence in art. For 40 years, the New York-based artist has played a variety of feminine guises in her inimitable photographic series, from girl Fridays to femme fatales, Old Master portrait subjects to ageing socialites. Revelling in the trickery afforded by make-up, dress and lighting, she is a skilled performer with a uniquely expressive face, as capable of channeling the cool wariness of a Hitchcock heroine as the desperation of a deadbeat clown, in the process delicately destabilising the construction of those very identities.
She has long been drawn to the language of cinema in her work, from the Untitled Film Stills, which so memorably suggested the promotional photos from noir and French new wave films, all the way through to her brand new series, which take their cue from 1920s Hollywood publicity photos. Next week, New York’s Metro Pictures Gallery will showcase a series of Sherman’s latest works, while in June, The Broad will mount a major survey of her oeuvre titled Imitation of Life, after the 1959 Douglas Sirk melodrama which famously explored the identity crisis of a young woman ‘passing’ as white.
Her work is playful, disturbing, humorous, allusive and ambiguous. Here, we try to learn some lessons from it.
1. Every sartorial choice is a choice that reflects but also projects an identity
Like most children, Cindy Sherman liked to play dress up. Unlike most of us, she not only never grew out of it, she made it a central process in her work. In interviews, she has described dressing up as a way of getting attention from her much older siblings; a photo from 1966 shows a 12-year-old Sherman and friend posing on a suburban street dressed up as old ladies. It was in college that she first started photographing herself in a variety of guises, deepening her interest in role play both in front of and away from the camera (she described once going to an art opening with padding under her shirt, pretending to be pregnant.) Her costumes are sourced from flea markets and thrift stores, her wigs are rented and she is a skilled make-up and lighting artist. Every detail in her work is considered, from the orange gingham skirt worn by a supine ingenue to the incongruously youthful candy pink manicure on a fading society dame. She understands the alchemy of image-making intuitively, which is perhaps why brands from MAC to Comme des Garçons have clamoured to work with her.
2. I want to be alone
Barring the odd collaborative effort, Sherman has always been a one-woman production company. Just as she projects multiple identities in front of the camera, she herself plays every role behind it: director, set maker, lighting designer, wardrobe mistress, and editor, to name just a few. Getting into character can take time and requires a gradual loss of self-consciousness, so it’s natural not to want anyone around. Beyond the props, she uses just a camera and a mirror to achieve her images. Roughly nine years ago, she began shooting digitally, enabling her to tweak as she goes.
3. Don’t go looking for the real Cindy Sherman
Sherman has always been adamant that she is not in the photographs she makes (though a recent New York Timesinterview says that after years of therapy “she is now willing to see aspects of herself even in her early photos”). Still, journalists have long sought to locate the “real” Cindy in her photos, as if each shot were a fragment of her own identity. In the handful of interviews she has given over the years, she strongly denies any narcissistic undercurrent in her work; if anything, she is effacing herself. As for the way her work has been subsumed into feminist discourse, Sherman has been candid about avoiding any overt theorising: “The work is what it is and hopefully it’s seen as feminist work, or feminist-advised work, but I’m not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff.” Still, she has said that her “centrefolds” – horizontal images of a variety of characters, all ‘played’ by Sherman looking variously frightened and feverish – aimed to disturb a certain voyeuristic gaze, and the large format of her photos can be seen as a reaction to the gargantuan proportions of certain “macho” painters’ work.”
4. Hollywood is the thread that runs through her work
As she pointed out in a 1994 BBC documentary, Sherman’s was the first generation to grow up steeped in the common, charged imagery disseminated through film and TV. “I guess movies are probably one of my biggest influences,” she revealed. Her Film Stills brilliantly suggested the B-movies she almost certainly grew up watching, be it sub-Hitchcock mysteries or lesser known Nouvelle Vague efforts. After the Film Stills, Sherman produced colour photographs starring herself, in front of rear-screen projections – by that time an outmoded special effect that was favoured, in fact, by Hitchcock – and later staged a show inspired by Hollywood headshots in Los Angeles just before the 2000 Academy Awards. Horror is one of her favourite genres and her own attempt at a horror movie, 1997’s Office Killer, so far her only film, was a goofy, gory riot.
5. Her influence is everywhere
Sherman started out in college as a painter but it was through the camera that she found her artistic voice. At the time, photography was a relatively uncharted territory in art, and for that reason, it has been suggested, it called out particularly to female artists. Her influence on the medium has been profound. She made headlines in 2011 when one of her photographs from 1981 sold for $3.8 million, then a record price for a photograph. And it is fair to say that her work predicted the rise and ubiquity, as well as the artifice, of the self-made imagery now swirling around in cyberspace. But as she told Harper’s Bazaar recently, “I don’t take selfies. I hardly ever use my phone for photographs. It’s really hard to remember to even take a picture of something.”
Jennifer sat infront of the camera (60d with 50mm) for five minutes – I did this three times just incase. I used one light – an overhead soft box just above and infront of Jennifer’s face. I then created atmospheric music to go with the tone of the video. I created the music through garageband.
I now need to adjust timing and create text so a voice can go on top of the video.
Colour grading – As you can see below, the original video on the left had an incredibly warm tone so I needed to adjust this. I have never done this before, but its quite similar to photoshop – the right image is an example of me trying to get it right… the background was fine but the grade I had created brought out all the red/purple t0nes in the face. It did not take long to correct it.
I think this piece of work has worked really well. If we refer to, The power of the Gaze, discussing Dijkstras work, the intense gaze battles with the idea of the desire to view, to be seen and the uncomfortableness of this relationship. This is particularly poignant with Jennifer’s situation, people long to stare at the unknown, the curious, the ever so slightly different. This moving portrait, highlights issues surrounding:
The gaze – to be seen and to see.
Identity – to be acknowledged and accepted by what other people see in you.
Whilst being personal to Jennifer, the voice and the text created, gives a greater overview and insight into the area of identity and gender. Rakesh Mahindra discussed the importance and the use of portrait in this sense, to give information to wider issues (under symposium post).
I also took some photographs on the digital medium format hasselblad – amazing quality. REMEMBER TO UPLOAD THEM ALL.