Assignment Three : Self-Portrait

I wrote a diary over two weeks and it said nothing about me.  It was basically a list of chores I do every day in my role as a mother.  This gave me the idea to base my self portrait on a subject I’ve been battling for years and that is, ‘loosing my identity’.  Making the transition from having a great career into becoming a full time wife and mother has been an eye opening experience.  I used to be the face of an entire team of professionals but now I feel completely faceless.

Over time I have become unrecognisable.  Power dressing has been replaced with bleach ridden jeans and sweaters.  Nights out are too exhausting to organise.  Adult conversations have become few and far between.  I talk to the dog so much he always knows my next move.  Passion for music has diminished with the desire for peace and quiet.  Slowly but surely my identity as I knew it has slipped away and been replaced with fatigued robot.  My identity that had naturally evolved with me is becoming a distant memory, even my name has changed!

People see who I am now and not what I used to be.  I struggle with this because I’m an evolution, I’ve been educated, I’ve travelled, I’ve achieved, all these things make up who I am.

A close friend told me they were jealous that I got to ‘potter’ around the house all day as a housewife.  In reality I run the house, look after the children, look after my husbands business finances, run a photography studio, make handmade jewellery and study Photography.  However, I’m seen as pottering.

The faceless feeling is carried throughout my journal entitled ‘A change of scenery’.

I wrote this journal whilst on a family holiday as I wanted to show that it’s not just a normal day to day issue, it follows me around.  A holiday to me is no longer a holiday, full of relaxation, fun and frolics.  It’s just a change of scenery, hence the title.

The journal is made up of a written diary with accompanying photographs.  The photographs are either auto biographical or self absent but never with my face on display.  Omitting my face is my way of getting across the feeling of being faceless.  The individual photographs themselves are a reaction to a feelings I’m having relating to identity loss.  Each photograph is captioned to give a hint to the feeling that spurred its being.  Whilst doing this I’m giving clues to my true identity, the personality that resides inside.

‘A Change of Scenery’


Self Evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

This has been an interesting assignment in terms of technical and compositional skills as I’ve been relying on other people to take most of the photographs.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to discuss with another person what I want the photograph to look like and why.  It felt like the knowledge I’ve been building up inside was finding an outlet.  Also it’s forced me to think in greater depth about composition.  I was looking for ideal scenes/backdrops and visualising where I should stand, how I should stand, where would I be looking, how would that effect the composition as a whole.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The concept of a diary is quite self explanatory but I think the content is thought provoking.  I wanted it to be as authentic as possible in the diary style of writing but with not so ordinary photographs with off the cuff phrases.  The translation of these is quite ambiguous and leaves a lot to interpretation so getting the balance right has been difficult.  The concern I have is including too much content as I don’t want to confuse the viewer with information that throws the viewers interpretation of the diary.  When we think about punctum, throwing the viewer is the aim but it has to be in the correct way.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

I have included some photographs in this diary that seem to have no correlation to the narrative which was my attempt at saying, sometimes the way your feeling doesn’t have any bearing on your surroundings and it can be confusing.  I’m concerned that this approach will simply come across as confusing to the viewer.
Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking.


In preparation for this assignment I looked at the work of other self portrait artists including Gillian Wearing, Nikki S. Lee, Trish Morrissey, Dita Pepe and Nigel Shafran.  Each artist has their own individual style based on subjects that are personal to them but with the ability to relate their ideas to others.  I felt like this was drawing the viewers in and provoked thoughts of their own experiences.  This gave me the idea to form a narrative based on the British seaside holiday but with a focus on me and how I’m feeling.  Anna Fox’s cockroach diary was eye opening for me as it gave away more information about her dysfunctional family than it did about its title.  I wanted to try a similar approach in my writing but using photographs to steer the viewer.



Response to Tutor Feedback – Assignment Three

Overall Comments

My tutor was highly complimentary regarding the idea for this assignment which was a huge relief to me as I felt I had put myself out in the open domain.  My aim was to be more creative in my ideas and using more conceptual methods and I’m pleased my tutor picked up on this and made positive comments.


Feedback on assignment

The feedback I received on this assignment helped me to obtain a clearer vision in my head of how this assignment should be structured.

After the initial idea came to me, my approach was based in real time.  My submission is a day by day honest and conceptual narrative of the British family holiday in the guise of a diary.  The emotions that led to each entry at times culminates into an evocative reflection of the feelings endured on a typical family holiday instead of the usual scenic seaside photographs we normally see.

The accompanying text was added to elicit thoughts from my viewers that go beyond the image and the diary entry and giving a sense of ‘whats going on here?’.  I wanted my audience to have more questions than answers allowing them to create their own versions of the story and looking further into the images and text for answers.

My tutor remarked that certain images and texts work very well and suggested my diary should be filled with these examples.  In my initial plans I hadn’t considered how feasible it would be to revisit and rework some of the images and text.  In reality its not something I can revisit or rework before the end of the course.  Having said that, I do feel that the diary as a whole is more representative of how I was feeling at the time.  To add or remove entries now would compromise the diary’s original and true meaning.

I can however understand what my tutor is saying.

  • Some of the images and texts may come across as page fillers and in the interests of keeping my audience engaged, less is more.
  • The images and texts that are strong individually may be lost amongst those that are less punchy and conceptual.
  • My tutors feedback has helped me to identify the difference between what works and what doesn’t, so that I can replicate this theme in future projects.
  • What I don’t say is as important as what I do say.  Some texts that accompany my images are giving too much away.  A hypothetic approach would leave more to the imagination.

I have a collection of images intended for the diary that I left out by choice because they didn’t fit the original narrative but were taken at a time when I felt I needed to say something.  Based on my tutors feedback I’m going to demonstrate the effectiveness of images with the correct accompanying text.

Too far

‘He’s gone too far this time’

The intention here is to not only set the scene i.e. on holiday, but also raise questions in my viewer:

  • Who’s gone too far?
  • Where has he gone?
  • Has he physically or metaphorically gone too far?
  • Is he in the picture?
  • Has he gone further than the frame?
  • Is the photographer angry or concerned?

On it’s own this image and text raises more questions than answers but as part of the diary it can be assumed that I’m not happy about something and tempers are flared.  Assumptions can be made regarding who ‘he’ is and the audience can build their own picture of what this holiday is about.  What I haven’t told the viewer is as thought provoking as what I haven’t told them.

I’m going to attempt to replace one of my less effective images and texts with this in my physical diary.

Tutors Suggestions

  • Broaden your research of image and text work by a variety of artists.
  • Show more evidence of more research, reading, looking and thinking.

I understand that I need to demonstrate my research and thinking in my blog and I have many ‘draft’ blogs in progress which show the extra work I do aside from course content.  I need to be more disciplined when it comes to giving evidence of reflective thinking and by the end of the course I will tie up all my reflective blogs to show this.



Tutor Feedback – Assignment Three

Overall Comments

Thank you for your honest and open description of the reason why you decided to take on this subject matter. I know that the shift in status from business person to parent can be a difficult one and I think that most hands on parents feel lost at some point (or through all of it), I know I did. I enjoyed the creative way that you took on this assignment and am pleased that you are not bogged down with the technicalities of photography, instead choosing a more conceptual approach to try to work out some interesting and personal ideas.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Your diary presents us with what seems to a typical British holiday complete with fish and chips, illness, mixed weather and family tension. Culturally this is interesting subject matter and for me the most interesting thing about the diary are the things that you have left unsaid.

Using this kind of material can be difficult. On the one hand you are working with very real feelings and situations that can be a great source of material for a project, and on the other you have the difficulty with keeping your viewer intrigued and engaged. In some cases (not this one I hasten to add), work can suffer form the ‘holiday slideshow syndrome’ that relates to the lengthy slideshows that people would deliver to friends and neighbours when returning from a holiday in the seventies.

Your challenge is to look for ways to subtly create thoughts and feelings in your viewer without necessarily giving them the whole story and there are moments in your diary where this happens. My favourite of these moments is the image of you (I think it is you!) taking a photograph from behind a wooden fence with the accompanying text, ‘He wasn’t paying that price’. The reason that this juxtaposition between text and image works so well is that the text is obscure enough to suggest a number of possible readings when viewed alongside the image; it creates different narrative possibilities in the viewers mind. Conversely, the phrase is also firmly rooted and quite firm. It is also interesting that the photograph is of a ‘her’ and the text refers to a ‘him’. So, when I look at this coupling, I am left thinking who the ‘he’ is. Is it the person that the woman in the picture is photographing? Is the ‘he’ somebody who is out of frame? Is the ‘he’ the person taking the picture? Also when isolated from the rest of the diary, I think about what the ‘price’ that you describe is. Is it literally the cost of something? Or is it the ‘price’ that we pay when doing something that we really don’t want to do?

Another moment that works well is when you use the phrase,  ‘I captured a lovely picture of Graham and the boys’. I like the fact that you choose not to show the ‘lovely picture’ that you describe – instead choosing to show an image of you with your head cut off. This metaphorical decapitation is interesting in terms of the ideas around identity that you describe in your introduction. The inference is that your identity has been completely removed by not being able to see your face.

Also the incredibly dark picture that is accompanied by the phrase, ‘Is this about sharing a meal or taking your photographs, he said’ works well. The fact that we can see very little within the image is at odds with the suggestion of taking a photograph, it appears that although a photograph is being taken, it actually fails to show us very much at all! This phrase also introduces a suggestion of real tension, the end of the sentence is important here, ‘he said’ really suggests that you are unhappy with this comment (and perhaps him, or at least the fictional version of him that is presented here).

I also think that the image of the rock pool and the phrase, ‘Like a needle in a haystack’ works well because the subject that is suggested by the words is not what we are looking at in the image but the image is busy enough for us to think about trying to find a needle (or something else) in the busy rock pool.

Now although the moments in I describe above work very well on their own or as a smaller collection, in order for them to function as part of a more polished piece of work, you need to think about removing some of the other information. Could you find other image and text couplets that work in a similar way, that add other suggestions of tensions or plays on words? Often less is more – allow the viewer to find their own blanks to fill in and don’t make it so easy for them.


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Your coursework is looking good and it is clear that you are not struggling with any elements of this. I like your dinosaur image!


Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

It is good to see that the appropriate research that you are doing is feeding to your work (Trish Morrissey, Gillian Wearing etc.) but I would like to see more evidence of the things that you are looking at as well as what these things make you think about. It is great that you mention books that you have looked at but what do you think about the work in them? How do some if the ideas being explored by other artists relate (or not) to yours?

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Have a think about creating a separate menu on your blog called ‘Learning Log’. This section is the one that the assessors will be most interested in, it should be filled with evidence of your learning, this is separate from the coursework that you are doing or the evidence of books that you are reading etc. and should contain questions that you are asking yourself (and attempting to answer) about the information that you are filling you head with as well as your own work.

Suggested reading/viewing


Alain de Botton, The art of Travel, This is a great book that gives an accessible philosophical investigation of how travelling affects us. Although it can be difficult to suggest that students look at pieces of my own work, the two projects on my web site called, Voyage, This is the Place were created by making diaries when travelling to specific places for specific reasons and the resulting voiceovers offer the kind of distillation of a much larger collection of personal texts that I am suggesting might be of use to you.

Martha Rosler – The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems, a great piece of work that is really good example of how image and text can work together.

I have just bought this book, I haven’t read it yet but it might be of interest in terms of your thinking about identity, Identity Theory Peter Burke, Jan Stets –

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

  • Broaden your research of image and text work by a variety of artists
  • Show more evidence of more research, reading, looking and thinking.

Please inform me of how you would like your feedback for the next assignment: written or video/audio.