My First Gallery opening for Pixel Alchemy Labs is my Self Portrait Series What do you See ? reflections of self
For the Last Photographic Assignment of my First University Year. I wished to revisit the Genre of the staged Image, while also embarking on a new project, and subject matter that I hadn’t really explored before that being the Portrait. I opted to create a Physiological Self Portrait Series which looked at aspects of the self. I’ve attempted to explore a double reflection of self through this series. Setting myself as the inner and outer character for emotional states we can find ourselves in. The important thing for me to get right technically with each of the five portraits was the facial and body expression to each of the emotions or states of being I wished to portray. Any post process of the image in Adobe Photoshop or onOne would be used to help bring out what was already portrayed in camera. Technical notes can be found with each Portrait. This started out as Journey much like any other, yet by its completion it became a very personal project for as I viewed the final Prints, I realized for the first time that each reflected the five major surgery I had undergone, and each reflected a stage within the healing process. My own perceptions have ultimately altered how I see not only myself but the world about me, I will share snippets of my personal life, when I have been that which I portray through these Archetypal character’s. You may wish to view the Portraits in the Gallery first and draw your own insights and conclusions before reading this article of the thoughts and process behind the finished Portraits.
Entitled: What do you See? reflections of self
So titled because I am fully aware people will see the person/ the character first, before they look deeper into the image and seek to understand the meaning behind the Portrait. “At first glance a photograph can inform us. At second glance it can reach us.” quote from Minor White, (The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts)
It is also entitled as such because I have learned more of what others see/ perceive of me both physically and as a person. So I set myself to become the mirror, and ask the question what do you see? Because thirdly every person that looks upon these portraits, these archetypes will see something different, something only you will see and take away with you, the reflection of self, and I hope better knowledge of the self. For in facing that which we fear, we find we over come the fear and see clearly what we were afraid of seeing to begin with.
The Over Lord
The Over Lord was the first Self Portrait I took in this series. It represents the deepest darkest aspect of the self. In this portrait I wanted to portray that point of utter despair and hopelessness the slight reflection of light in the globe the last glimmer of hope while in the right hand the skull, death by suicide shines brighter. This is that moment when all seems lost to the person. The Overlord of our darkest thoughts, despair, and fear. It comes out of the Darkness of our mind without warning.
For me this state of being was now three and half years ago, after complications in surgery’s left large blanks in my memory. I could no longer earn a living doing what I had been, for that part of my mind was also wiped blank. I was left feeling I had nothing, was nothing for hope of a future no longer seemed to shine to lit the way forward. It would be Photography that lead me out of this state. For each of us that find our way back our path is different, yet it is always lite with a new found hope, support and love from those around us. Yet we must all realize that not all are so lucky for there are those of unknown that find themselves lost to the control of the Dark Overlord.
The Technical detail behind this image.
Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6G Set Up low key lighting set up single studio light with small soft box. Post Production work; Adjustment curves Layer to whiten the face scalp and hair and darken around the eyes, along with a colour adjustment for the eyes.
The Hidden Self
The Hidden Self explores that part of us we do not know, do not wish to know or aren’t ready to know about ourselves, while also exploring that side of us we do not wish to share with any body else, or for others to see. We wall ourselves off out of protection, or we are walled off from the outside by others, laws and customs. The hands held up in an open and honest gesture that hides nothing, yet is equally capable of pushing anything and everything we do not wish to see or know about away
This is also entitled the Forgotten Self. For at times in our lives, we forget who we were what we were once like, what our dreams and aspirations in life are, or were. We are forever changing and evolving as people. Yet at times, we see ourselves in the mirror, and are left wondering who we once were. Like all things this can be for better or for worse. this work was inspired by the works of Rene Magritte, and from contemporary photographic artists Pierre Radisic from his Deaf and mute friends or twin Brothers 1987 and Aziz + Cucher Maria and Rick from the series ‘Dystopia’ 1994
On the personal level
This is is as much a self reflection as who I was as a young man. Shut down by the education system that didn’t recognize dyslexics like myself, told I was stupid, thick, a good for nothing human being. Not realizing that I was an intelligent creative person, They failed by their own standards of what an intelligent person is, yet like all systems they are there for the majority that is considered normal not the minority that need some help and most importantly understanding. I can say thankfully that of all the University’s I could have been attending. I chose and was excepted by Unitec University who has an outstanding record and capability’s of support structures in place to ensure I have a bright academic future ahead of me
This is also a part of my everyday life,due to before mentioned memory loss, while some memory’s blaze like stars, other parts are lost forever and even when told it is more like seeing a photograph of another, hearing the story of another life, not my own self or past.
The Technical detail behind this image
Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6G Set Up One Studio Light set up, Soft Box against black back drop, photographed with blank expression and eyes closed. Post Production: clone tool to take out eye lids and lips. onOne Perfect Portrait plug in to render out blemish and smooth detail into a resolved image
The Seeker explores that part of ourselves that seeks to be in harmony and balance within ourselves, and within our environment, It also represents the self that seeks greater knowledge. Seeking within and without. The Sphere is centered and held by concentration and determination, once our attention is diverted the sphere is dropped broken, or snuffed out like a candle, making us restart the exercise once more. The Celtic Cloth behind reflects the inner and outer balance we seek, and are interwoven with, as a part of life itself.The Inspiration for this image came as I sought to inform of the spiritual aspect of the self, without denoting to any religion or belief structure, while at the same time taking the basic foundations of all belief structures, that we seek for something greater than ourselves, seek knowledge beyond our selves, while also looking at the fundamentals that we carry both masculine and feminine aspects within us for we are just a part of nature as anything else.
On a Personal level I had to seek to find balance in my life from what was and what is now. I believe after completing this series I am far closer to that self balance that keeps both mind and body in health, yet in truth a part of us must always remain the seeker in order to learn grow and remain within balance for our own sanity and sake
The Technical detail behind this image
Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6G Set Up One Studio Light set up, Soft Box. Post Production: Adjustment layer colour channel turn the robe green, transform tool warp to lengthen sleeve. Globe of light put in, rendered lights to brighten palms where light hits from globe. Clone tool to extend my own natural beard length.
The Beast Within
I wanted to explore the irrational side of human nature, how we can become deformed, in mood and temperament in how and what we can say, and act toward others, when not in our “right minds” the apology that comes to mind is “I’m sorry I wasn’t myself….”.The Beast within explores that side of us that becomes irrational, we are unable to be reasoned with, or are able to entrain others points of view or perspectives. For whatever reason we act irrationally without forethought or can be reasoned with we lose ourselves and begin to act more like an animal than a person.
The inspiration is based upon the Neo classical paintings of Greco-Roman gods Bacchus and Pan,yet in a striped away simplified manner. The grapes hang not from a grape vine, but rather a noxious weed. That represents that which feeds our irrational behavior, whatever, happens to be the force, or reason behind our irrational actions or words. I wanted to include Pan, as part of the representation in part because it is from Pan we get the word Panic, which can be an inducer to this behavior and what we can cause in those closet to use when we are in such a state. For many they will view this and see the Iconic imagery the Catholic Church once used to represent the devil, yet it was Pan and Bacchus that gave the inspiration to what would be come such iconic Imagery. Yet there is a more personal side to the inspiration behind this portrait, more so than any other portrait in this series and that is Naomi Oron, from the series ‘SkinPortraits’ by Adrienne M. Norman.
The Personal side behind this work is, before the five surgery’s, I was a slim fit young 32 year old guy. The Surgery required was life saving and I can not be more thankful to those that did all to save my life. However there is always a price to be paid it seems, For me it was the loss of my physical form as I knew it, and replaced by scars and a deformed body due to the loss of strength in my abdominal muscles . I had to come to except not only when people look at me they think I am an over weight guy, with little dress sense. I have also had to come to except there is nothing I can do to change or reverse my present physical form. This is the first image where I have revealed all the scars all those parts I do my best to hide from the world, which is where Naomi Oron from the series ‘SkinPortraits’ by Adrienne M. Norman. came in, after seeing her portrait in my research for this project. I was confronted with a reality of myself, a realization and revaluation. For what I wanted to portray in my physiological portrait , no one else could, without this body as it is now, with its scars and still more hidden wounds like surgical hernias, I couldn’t portray that which I wished to, that which I fought to hide, that which I most dislike about myself. I could use in a positive way. Once I decided in the end to reveal that which I most disliked, I then thought well if I’m going to shout it, might as well make it scream. I could have easily Photoshoped out the scars and other parts of myself however, I do like even in this sort of imagery there to be an honesty about it. When I hung the 16×16 inch print up, I looked at it and no longer saw what I was, what I am, but something different something on a level I could except, that and soon learnt from others they didn’t look at that part I try to hide but were drawn to look at the face and head in this portrait. One other thing about this portrait I know, unlike many I can hide away the worst of it, let people think what they think, if I appear fat under what cloths I am able to comfortably wear, so be it. I still have to be honest for this was truly the hardest of all my self portraits to do, and has become one of the most rewarding. Its also ironic that it was directly after my fifth major surgery I became that which I portray here. A wild beast that was impossible to reason with talk with, with major mood swings. For Two years I was like this, because it turns out for two years I lived as a, type two diabetic with no medication. It was only when I was rushed into hospital ( once more) that I learned I had been diabetic for two years non medicated It was in the charts, somewhere along the way that bit of information was not passed along nor was the medication I would need. The poison that was feeding my ever increasing irrational behavior, was the growing amounts of sugar I was eating as my body desperately tried to gain the glucose it needs to function with a ever limited ability to process it correctly. Once my sugar levels returned to a safe and proper level, I also returned to the person my partner of then 16 years had fallen in love with and continued to support despite everything I had put them through. Imbalance in mind or body can lead one down dangerous life paths. I am a very lucky man, type two Diabetes is a growing plague across the world, and the compilations from having untreated or badly manged type 2 diabetes are a nightmare. So yes It is with a sense of irony I look upon this work knowing I may to some look like the devil, having felt like I have been to hell and back again, but all in all I am lucky and greatly blessed.
The Technical detail behind this image
Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6G Set Up One Studio Light set up, Soft Box. Post Production: 3d rendered gray scale horn added to head, with adjustment layers for tone and colour. Clone tool used on hair to help blend horn into the head naturally, extreme sharpening used to accentuate facial expression, skin tones and scars. copy and paste one set of grapes and placed in middle above mouth, then added false liquid to pour into the mouth. Transform tool used to extend tongue and fork it ( natural shadow hides part of this detail)
The Angelic explores Hope, the best that is within all of us. the ability to protect the weak and infirm, to bring joy and hope to those that have lost it, to nurture and care for ourselves those we love, and above all to those we may never have met, yet help ensure they are equally protected and care for to the best of our ability.The reflection of the true self before ego takes over, when we find the perfect balance within and without ourselves and are, and can be happy and content with who we are as a person, an individual, a partner in and as part of a loving union between two people, as a family. This work also explores the human belief of the Soul and its connection to the Divine. While the Work is inspired once more by western Art, and influenced by iconic imagery. The staff is seen as a non offensive object, yet it is one of the oldest weapons ever used and is still in use through the eastern martial arts. Staffs also date back into antiquity and can be found as a motif within symbolism as a sign of protection, health, leadership, guidance, righteousness, nobility and authority. Today its form can be seen in use throughout the military in dress uniform, in the form of a baton in marching bands. Within religion and even as the symbolic instrument that opens parliaments throughout the world.
The Personal side behind this image is, well something that can not be talked about or put into words, so for this one image all I can say is, that it to is a representation of a state of being I have once had the blessing to know intimately.
The Technical detail behind this image
Camera: Nikon D5100, Lens: AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6G Set Up three Studio Light set up in Studio, For High Key Lighting Effect. Post Production: Added Staff to hand, softened features, used transform tool to lift chest slightly and gave a soft over all body glow using onOne perfect effects plug in.
It was only on the completion of this series that I was able to see clearly that I had without conscious thought created five self portraits that reflected in essence the five major surgery’s I under went. In so doing I also recreated five states of being I have personally experienced. It seems fitting that in February of this Year I steeped back into the world, for the first time after almost ten years having made all the physical mental and emotional recovery I could to do so. Then to end my first Academic year with a series that I set out to be a apart of an observation, only to see and find that perhaps this series has been the finial step in my healing, enabling me to go on stronger than before, with a new lease and purpose. In doing so I must make special mention and thanks to Levi Moore and Jeff Smith who started the Sefly Sunday Project on Google+ with the Aide of Jules Falk Hunter who along with Jason Kowing encouraged me to enter into the project. Who thought it would have evolved and lead to this. I was just reminded that 31st of October I “threatened” to reveal all to scare these poor folks. Yet did so almost to the day for completely different reasons.
This whole series can be best summed up with “This unexpected image was the record of an inner state that I did not remember seeing and he did not remember experiencing at the moment of exposure”. – Minor White, Mirrors, messages, manifestations by Minor White