Updated: May 30, 2020
From Rembrandt to Cindy Sherman - countless artists throughout history have experimented with a very particular subject: The Self. Thanks to developments in technology and the invention of the cellphone camera, the concept of taking a picture of oneself is familiar to most of us. Added to Selfies - that are made to show the current state of the “art” - many self-portraits hold an additional layer of storytelling. From the very beginning, creators started to explore themselves, different concepts of representation and act out fictional stories.
A question that is answered rather humorously by Kourtney Roy is her “Survivalist Failures” series on Instagram. The photographer famous for her self-portraits depicts a character in quarantine and its daily battles.
Although the scenes are clearly exaggerated, the lack of costume makes the character feel a lot more “real” than her usual dressed and “propped” up characters.
Filmmaker and Photographer Duo Mathery take pictures of them themselves at home, replicating a FaceTime phone call or visualize the term „Social Distancing“.
„The limitations of lockdown definitely helped to feed my creativity. Having only myself and my immediate surroundings to work with has made me more experimental“ photographer Saffron Harlem explains.
Her project „Lockdown Diaries“ portrays the mundane, but also hints at a more darker, unknown truth. To her the most exciting part of self-portraits is the performative element, she states further.
“By being both image and image maker you can communicate exactly what you want“.
On German photographer Rebecca Ruetten’s webpage you find her wearing a facemask made of teabags and winning a bicycle race in her living room. Under the project description “Quarantainment” she writes: “What we need now is humor and a sense of belonging that goes beyond our current situation and leaves no one behind. Right on our doorstep, not only globally. Shared projects are the start for me.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Self-portraits enable creatives to express the different ways quarantine and self-isolation are being experienced in a time when creative resources are limited. The use of the self in pictures is therefore an obvious and organic choice. Creatives embrace their influence on the perception of the viewer and create different narratives. The way quarantine is experienced is very personal. The visual outcomes are often manipulated and exaggerated to highlight this experience and underline the message to the viewer.
The creation of a self-portrait definitely has a therapeutic value and helps in dealing with personal emotions and accepting the current state of things. This therapeutic value is enhanced by sharing it with a community. This contributes to a sense of unity and the feeling of togetherness.