The Self and The Other

OCA study blog | Andrew Fitzgibbon

A3: self through shoes | tutor submission

Work

As individual images

Note that tint has been added to digital images to avoid white bleeding into screen. Output will be prints.

Click to view in lightbox

At-a-glance view

Artist statement

Portrait of Andrew Fitzgibbon, circa 1983. Photographer unknown.

I am a reluctant self-portraitist. As Barthes said in Camera Lucida, ‘whether or not the subject is already dead, every photograph is this catastrophe’. The punctum of time signifies our own mortality. For me, spending time on self-portraiture is akin to spending time with our own death – but working at it for a sustained period rather than briefly reflecting upon it. I don’t enjoy this work but I find value in it as a reflection on the self and one’s personal journey.

In this work, I have represented my different selves, through different shoes as signifiers of my actions.  As Jean-Paul Sartre said, ‘Man is nothing else but what he purposes, he exists only in so far as he realizes himself, he is therefore nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is’. Each worn shoe has its own story and for me some also signify earlier replaced shoes that became worn and were discarded. In the case of the sandals, they are exact replacements for a pair that saw adventures in warm places on the far sides of the world. The muck boots carry the mud of the Yorkshire Dales and with their stable-purpose design fondly reminds me of family horses that have come and gone. Each shoe reflects some aspect of my identity. They are presented in a white void so that others might imagine stories for the shoes or use them as vehicles for their own stories. It is the white void of product photography, ready for the viewer to fill with their own space; but a space interrupted with the used and worn footwear – the footwear that tells my story.

I drew inspiration from artists creating images from their own feet and footwear, notably  John Coplans using of close-up but anonymous photos of his own body and Aline Smithson’s diaristic self-portraits through her own but anonymous feet. I was also encouraged to find that the great Vincent van Gogh found worn shoes a worthy subject for his work!

The images were created in a controlled studio environment to maintain a consistent point of view and lighting throughout. The set up is described here and the contacts and process of shooting here. With the preparation and attention to detail required, I was reminded that the number of times the shutter is clicked is a poor indicator of the work that goes into photography.

Self-review against assessment criteria

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

Despite being a reluctant self-portraitist, I found making this work engaging and challenging even if slightly depressing. The work was very different to the spontaneous on location shooting of my previous assignment and allowed me to work with a closely controlled studio environment and the finer attention to details required when subjects are intended to be shown and viewed close up. The white space is an important part of the viewing experience for the work, along with the careful and consistent placement of the subjects – I believe managed successfully.

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

I’ve continued with the theme from my previous assignment of smaller objects telling stories of broader subjects without necessarily depicting those subjects in themselves. In these photos I am physically absent but very much present in my different identities through the shoes. The approach to layout and presentation seems to have been successful in engaging people, judging by the comments on the OCA Discuss Forum.

Demonstration of creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

I think I’ve come up with a creative approach to representing my different selves through objects that in themselves tell stories through their signs of wear and functions suggested by their designs.

Context: Reflection, research, critical thinking.

Extensive research and reflection recorded in blog.

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