We all have our fears. Some big, some small – some deeper, some more superficial. My fear of heights, showing emotion, and being photographed are pretty different from one another, but what they do have in common is vulnerability. By not showing my face in my pictures, I wanted to create a sense of distance and lack of openness. Though my fears certainly don’t define me, they are still a part of life. Overcoming my fears is something I’ll be working on for years to come, but if I’m lucky enough to succeed, it would be the ultimate accomplishment.
To see more of her work for The Photograph Collective, click here
For our second project, our photographers tackled self-portraits. To see other artist’s projects, please click here. We invite our readers to include critiques of their own in the comments section – be respectful, as always!
Aaron: I like the concept of acknowledging and overcoming fears through portraiture – it flies in the face of modern ‘selfie’ culture where everyone is always having a good time, doing something awesome, being awesome, etc. That said, my first reaction to these images wasn’t really a sense of fear, but maybe it speaks to you more personally on that angle.
The image with the palm trees is the strongest – it’s really nicely lit, composed (those powerlines and trees!), and post-processed (if applicable); it’s a nice image! I totally understand that conveying fear or its conquest in this situation would be kind of difficult to do with subtlety, and I’m not sure what to do differently. I do see that your visible hand looks like it’s grasping, but admittedly there isn’t much to hold on to there.
The third image is strong too – but I wonder if harsher lighting or a more severe angle would convey more emotion and urgency?
Amanda: Love the concept of battling your fears – we were clearly thinking along the same lines. It’s very interesting to look at your images in contrast to the other photo sets in terms of “vulnerability” since some chose to show ourselves up close and instead you chose to add distance and blur yourself. It’s powerful in a very different way & is almost unnerving. I think the most powerful image is the second one where the viewer can feel your direct gaze, but don’t have the benefit of seeing your face itself. The grainy touch to the photo (is that from a high ISO or post-editing?) and the cropping/framing makes me think of poloaroid shots of moments that aren’t meant to be captured. That adds to the feeling of vulnerability even more.
For me the third image where your hand is blocking the camera feels separated from the rest of the set. The other two photos are subtle in their message, yet still keep their intensity. The last image however, is more literal and obvious than the other nuanced photos. Ultimately, I love your choice to capture the various aspects of fears in your life – not just one. One thing to consider is putting some more intentionality behind your color schemes – either making all of them the same (your last project, the roadtrip, did an amazing job of using consistent colors which really pulled the project together) or making each of them distinctly different. I have trouble with editing colors on multiple photos as well, so I know it’s tough!
Jacquelyn: I loved your trilogy of photos! Each one was an epitome of your artist’s statement. Though viewers never get to see your facial features, they do get a taste of your likes / dislikes, environment, and personality. In essence, these photographs showed me more about who you are instead of a face-to-face self-portrait. My favorite photo was the first – you sitting on a rooftop. I loved how the afternoon light highlights you as the subject matter, while the textures and colors of the roof tiles and background palm trees still stand out from the viewers’ blurred view. I also admire this photo’s composition; while you were the subject, you still left the foreground and right-side view for viewers to understand how your environment shapes who you are. Great job!
Mary: I really love your first image. It’s very strong compositionally, and the balance of color is really striking. I actually think that this one photo really accomplishes what you were hoping to say through the series of the photos. It really has this feeling of distance, particularly self-created distance. You’re up, hiding maybe, on the roof. You’re not in focus, you’re not looking at the camera, and your face isn’t even visible. It really feels like you, as the subject, are very vulnerable. It’s a very emotive photo. I think the contrast of the warm and cool colors really adds to the feeling of push and pull emotionally when combined with the subject sitting alone on a roof–a setting typically reserved for contemplation. I think the photos, as a series, feel a little disjointed. I do like the aesthetic of the 2nd photograph and I think a series of photos using that technique could be really interesting. If the aesthetic of the three photos or the dimensions were consistent, they would feel more like a whole.
Khatiti: I love your set of self-portraits! They are so expressive, and I was able to get a lot of the meaning when seeing them before reading your artist’s statement. I felt a sense of disconnectedness, mostly due to the fact that your face is hidden in all three photos in some form. This isn’t a negative thing though, because I gathered that as part of what you might have been trying to convey in both your fear of showing emotion as well as of being photographed. I found the last photo to be the most successful, as it was clear what it was trying to express without any explanation.