herself in time

women's self-portrait photography

Posts tagged photography

5 notes

Totally heart Nan Goldin. 

Nan Goldin, Nan and Brian in Bed, 1983

Nan Goldin, Nan, One Month After Being Battered, 1984

Thoughts on Nan Goldin’s self-portraits:

Nan Goldin’s photographs establish a diaristic approach to self-portraiture, blending art with autobiography. Goldin’s self-portraits portray her in her surrounding environment, with her friends, with her boyfriend, and in her daily life. Goldin has utilized the camera to take control of her surrounding situations and seems not to make statements on society as a whole as she explores herself and allows herself to be vulnerable through the lens. Susan Bright makes a good point when she states,

It’s easy to bare one’s soul to a mechanical instrument; it can be highly cathartic and one has to be accountable only to oneself and the inanimate camera…Autobiographical work is often read as a form of expressive therapy, and it is common for photographers to create a visual record of a personal tragedy or difficult time in life.[1]  

Goldin’s most famed 1984 self-portrait, “Nan, One Month After Being Battered”, is both confrontational and painful for the viewer, but important to be seen because it makes a statement on domestic violence. Our culture has become more visual and we are typically more moved by images than that of text. “Nan, One Month After Being Battered” and her 1983 self-portrait, “Nan and Brian in Bed”, show the photographer as vulnerable, yet strong.

            With these self-portraits, she takes the abusive relationship in her own control through the use of the camera, and gets the images out to the world to be seen. By taking control, Goldin stands defiant, as a woman who will not remain hidden away from violence but instead will confront it through her art. Goldin offers the audience views into her life through photography and uses the camera as her visual journal. Her work is very personal and she is present in all of her photographs including her self-portraits. Nan Goldin is a photographer whose presence and voyeuristic exposure into her personal life are seen as vulnerable and strong. She has taken control of her abusive situation by capturing herself in these moments, and showing the world her pain. 



[1] Bright, 24-25

Filed under nan goldin self-portrait photography

14 notes

 Thoughts on Cindy Sherman:

Cindy Sherman began exploring self-portraits in the 1970s with her Untitled Film Stills. Her photographstake control of representation through self-portraiture by using herself as subject to make statements to her audience. During this postmodern period of the 1970s and 1980s, there was a rise of identity theory through which self-portraits became a significant tool for exploration.

Artists increasingly turned to photography to express their identities in terms of race, gender and sexuality, often using their own bodies as perfect instruments to draw attention to those who had been traditionally overlooked in the predominantly white, middle-class, male canon of the Western art world.

Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1976-1980) launched her exploration into identity by taking on different disguises to say something about society as a whole, and make statements on female stereotypes in a male-dominated world. Regarding her recent exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Sherman states,

When I was starting my stuff, I felt completely isolated from traditional photography, I felt like an outcast, not just from the photography world but even from the art world, which was all about painting and sculpture back then – mostly male painting and sculpture. That’s why a lot of women from my generation tried to find new directions to go in.

Sherman’s direction takes on different identities in photography to make a variety of comments on society and culture.

            Her 1981 “Centerfolds” series shows a variety of women in different emotional states – terrified, heartbroken, and melancholic – and makes statements on perceived typical feminine states. Sherman wants the audience to view the images as though they were photographed by a male photographer, as opposed to being taken by her. These images portray the women as being vulnerable and more accessible to the lens as though enjoying the attention the drama of the emotional states arouses. The emotions that her identities take on in this series are more delicate, vulnerable, and weak, as though women tend to act this way more when looked at through the male gaze. With her exploration into color photography in the 80’s, Sherman began using studio backdrop perceptions to change and control the scenery. The use of backdrop to control the scenes remains present in her work from the 1980s to later prints in the early 2000s and her clown photos in 2008.  From her early Untitled Film Series, to her later High Society Series, Sherman’s true self remains a mystery, but her statements on identity resonate throughout all of her work. Although Sherman’s photos do not explore her own identity per se, her exploration of different identities and issues of femininity and societal stereotypes with her photography is brilliant, passionate, and genius. Cindy Sherman stands as one of the most important contemporary artists working today. 

Works Cited: Bright, Susan - Auto Focus. 

                      Sischy, Ingrid. “The Artists’s Studio: Cindy Sherman.” Vanity Fair

Filed under cindy sherman self-portrait photography

2 notes

Claude Cahun
Auto-Portrait, 1939
Thoughts on Claude Cahun:
Cahun was born Lucie Schwob in 1893 and changed her name to the more androgynous Claude in 1918. Cahun was one of a few women to be active in the Surrealist movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Most of her self-portraits are from the late 1920s and early 1930s, many of which include her lover, Marcel Moore.  Her self-portraits and photomontages address issues of the self, sexual identity, and gender roles. “Cahun proposes that the real self can never be revealed because it is performed – a role rather than a truth. Her lifelong interest in self-portraits investigated the slippage between self and other. Cahun’s androgynous name change, conversial poems, masculine appearance, and understanding of the artificiality of theatre have led to her being seen as a precursor of postmodern gender and identity theory.” (Bright, p.16). Cahun’s exploration of self and notions of not one true self were strong in her surreal self-portraits, multiple exposures, and photo- montages. There has been much debate in the past regarding Cahun’s work. It is stated that her identity became so blurred that many thought she was a man, “Lost to obscurity for decades, Cahun’s identity became so uncertain that for a time it was unclear whether she was male or female.” (Monahan, p. 125). It seems that until the 1980s Cahun’s work was lost in the art world. Since then there have been many comparisons to her self-portraits with those of Cindy Sherman’s. Like Sherman, who will be discussed in more detail later, Cahun took on different identities within her art. With a shaved head and dressed as a man, Cahun questioned the norm of gender roles and sexual identity. Through her self-portraits she makes us question the self, our sexuality and inherent masculine/feminine traits that live within all of us. She remains an important artist in the Surrealist movement and within feminine and lesbian culture in art from the 1920s. Cahun’s questions of self and gender remain relevant leading into the 1970s Women’s Liberation Movement and still today. 

Claude Cahun

Auto-Portrait, 1939

Thoughts on Claude Cahun:

Cahun was born Lucie Schwob in 1893 and changed her name to the more androgynous Claude in 1918. Cahun was one of a few women to be active in the Surrealist movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Most of her self-portraits are from the late 1920s and early 1930s, many of which include her lover, Marcel Moore.  Her self-portraits and photomontages address issues of the self, sexual identity, and gender roles. “Cahun proposes that the real self can never be revealed because it is performed – a role rather than a truth. Her lifelong interest in self-portraits investigated the slippage between self and other. Cahun’s androgynous name change, conversial poems, masculine appearance, and understanding of the artificiality of theatre have led to her being seen as a precursor of postmodern gender and identity theory.” (Bright, p.16). Cahun’s exploration of self and notions of not one true self were strong in her surreal self-portraits, multiple exposures, and photo- montages. There has been much debate in the past regarding Cahun’s work. It is stated that her identity became so blurred that many thought she was a man, “Lost to obscurity for decades, Cahun’s identity became so uncertain that for a time it was unclear whether she was male or female.” (Monahan, p. 125). It seems that until the 1980s Cahun’s work was lost in the art world. Since then there have been many comparisons to her self-portraits with those of Cindy Sherman’s. Like Sherman, who will be discussed in more detail later, Cahun took on different identities within her art. With a shaved head and dressed as a man, Cahun questioned the norm of gender roles and sexual identity. Through her self-portraits she makes us question the self, our sexuality and inherent masculine/feminine traits that live within all of us. She remains an important artist in the Surrealist movement and within feminine and lesbian culture in art from the 1920s. Cahun’s questions of self and gender remain relevant leading into the 1970s Women’s Liberation Movement and still today. 

Filed under claude cahun self-portrait photography surrealism

2 notes

Susan Bright on Self Portraiture

Susan Bright’s book, Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography is an excellent break down of themes of self-portraits into five categories: Autobiography, Masquerade, The Body, Studio and Album, and Performance. This book is a lot of what I’m basing my thesis on and has given me insights in analyzing work and choosing the photographers for my exhibition, which I will announce here soon! Read the attached interview to hear Bright’s explanation of the five sub-categories of self-portraiture!

Filed under susan bright self-portrait photography

11 notes

flyer for the exhibition opening. herself in time is an exhibition of women self-portrait photography with artists from the 1920’s to today. the exhibit is site-specific to the rea coffeehouse which is has been abandoned for the last decade. viewing rea as a self-portrait of chatham, with its rich history and graffitied walls, i hope to raise awareness about the space in order to get it running as an unconventional art gallery on chatham’s campus for future exhibitions. 
the photography installation is a celebration of women, self-exploration, the history of self-portraits in photography, and the uniqueness of rea coffeehouse. 

flyer for the exhibition opening. herself in time is an exhibition of women self-portrait photography with artists from the 1920’s to today. the exhibit is site-specific to the rea coffeehouse which is has been abandoned for the last decade. viewing rea as a self-portrait of chatham, with its rich history and graffitied walls, i hope to raise awareness about the space in order to get it running as an unconventional art gallery on chatham’s campus for future exhibitions. 


the photography installation is a celebration of women, self-exploration, the history of self-portraits in photography, and the uniqueness of rea coffeehouse. 

Filed under Rea Coffee House Chatham University Self-Portraits Photography Installation