12th October 2020
For this assignment I produced a series of eight images. I created more but I cut down the selection to eight because I will be using the works in an exhibition that I am working towards at the moment. Some of the works that I completed for this assignment are in a group exhibition at present in Hall Place and Gardens in Kent. The exhibition review with my work in situ can be found here. I purposely left out the final eight images from this assignment so that they get to be shown fresh next year in my solo exhibition.
The self-portraits used for Assignment 5 were taken over a long period. In fact from the start of this course I increased my self-portraits to show myself in every state of being, an influence gained from studying Jo Spence.
The completed works for this assignment are below.
The role of the glitch
Each image in the series has been glitched to a certain degree, some more than others using a combination of effects. These effects represent different feelings connected with my mental health. For example in the image ‘Dissociation’ I have tried to convey the feeling of zoning in and out of my environment. The image has been used multiple times and cropped in to enlarge the face, these different sizes represent the in and out, coming and going feeling of awareness and lack of awareness of the environment around me and also myself. The speckled glitching accompanied by the mottling effect of the boxes and glitches represent that fuzzy feeling that I also get when I am in such a state which feels like cotton wool is padding out my skull.
The role of the border
When viewing these images it is important to note that the black borders that surround them are also part of the concept. The borders represent the darkness that I feel connected with depression and isolation. The different amount of black that surrounds the images and the positioning of the black negative space tells the viewer about how the image, which is me at the time of taking the photograph, is feeling dominant or subservient over the negative darkness.
For example in the image ‘Depressed in Bed’ I am placed in the lower right hand corner. This is mirroring the self-portrait position and symbolises feeling low as well as the positioning of the body in a bed which is low as well. We the viewer should feel as though we are being pulled downwards and off to the right to strengthen the feeling of going to bed.
The other example of how I used the border can be seen in both the images ‘It’s A New Dawn Again’ and ‘Simply Depressed Again.’ ‘It’s A New Dawn Again’ is those special times when I feel empowered and I change my style and thought modes. I become far more energetic and positive and I usually have a new hair style. This time I was quite drastic and had the sides of my hair shaved so I could wear it as a Mohawk hairstyle. So far in two and a half months I have had emerald green and black hair, lime green and black hair, lime green and I am now currently a blue jade colour all over.
Therefore my mental health is in a positive space and the image has engulfed most of the blackness of the border, the depression.
‘Simply Depressed Again’ works oppositely to ‘It’s A New Dawn Again’. The depression is great and I feel engulfed by its darkness and I isolate myself. The borders darkness therefore is larger, its negative space becomes a void that over takes the positive space of the image. I am small and lost in that negativity of depression.
The importance of the eyes
Apart from the border playing an important part in the concept of the series we also have the eyes. We all know the old saying ‘The eyes are the window to the soul’ and I wanted the eyes to be the most important part of my self portrait. This is because I wanted the viewer to see not happiness or positiveness in my eyes but the negativity of living with mental health and how it rots every part of you including your essence. Even in my positive moments I have glitches connected with my mental health I am never truly free from it.
Our eyes reveal our thoughts and emotions and being in the most central place for people to see, eye contact can tell someone exactly how you are feeling even if you are trying to hide your emotions.
With my portraits I had to make sure that the eyes did look sad or ill. Some very good self-portraits that I had taken simply couldn’t be used for this assignment because the eyes looked to alive. I dramatised this idea in some of the images by highlighting the eyes in a box and in colour. This is so the viewers eyes predominantly fix here, reading the inner self and hopefully the solitude and anguish within. The box also fits in with the boxed glitches so the theme was still running through each image as much as possible.
Examples of the boxing out of the eyes can be seen below.
I actually like the concept of the boxes around the eye area and now as I am writing this conclusion up I am actually thinking that the boxed theme might have been worth carrying through all the photographs to unite them further just as the glitches do. I should have produced extra images with the boxes on all images and then at least I could have compared them. It could have then been beneficial if I had printed out the photographs and placed them on the wall to see how they would interconnect.
The problem with the printing at the moment is that the printer is packed ready for the move so I am having to approach the exhibition planning within Photoshop. Photoshop layouts work well but the true feeling cannot be experienced on a small screen.
‘It’s That Negativity’ and ‘Anxiety Spikes the Feeble Flesh’
Both the images ‘It’s That Negativity’ and ‘Anxiety Spikes the Feeble Flesh’ approach the images overall colour differently to the other six images in the series. Although those which have boxed eyes have a flesh tone within the box to break up their monochrome tones and bring the reality back to the eyes, both of these images approach colour and tone far more dramatically.
In the image, ‘It’s That Negativity’ I have solarised the whole photograph before I added the glitches. I use to love carrying out this effect in the darkroom while developing my 35mm film images. It came across as mysterious, powerful and dark. Dark as in menacing or otherworldly, dark as in negative or a parallel universe where everything is inverted.
This other world which is powerful and dark is like my world of mental health. I am lost in this world when I am depressed and the negativity engulfs my mind and everything becomes filled with doom and sadness. With this all churning in the back of my mind I used the solarisation technique in Photoshop CC to symbolise the negativity of depression and living constantly with mental health which is like a shroud that covers you from noon to night. My notes on how to create a solarised photo effect can be found on this link.
‘Anxiety Spikes the Feeble Flesh’ approaches colour far differently. Within this image I needed to obtain the explosion of painful, moving colour that I get when I have a panic attack. This colour hurts my eyes and my head and on occasions it is accompanied with temporary blindness which lasts no more than half an hour. The colour lines I see during an anxiety attack as well as in my migraines. They shimmer and move across my vision from the left to right so I had to think of a way to represent this movement.
How can one represent colour as pain, as the sharpness that stabs at your eyes and the tingling that feels like needle pricks that I get all over my body? This pain I represented with lines akin to spikes which jab towards me in blinding colour.
By adding the appropriate glitches I also obtained the prismatic zig-zag lines that move across my vision and then blind me. This can be seen in the image on the left below.
I wanted to show more movement within this image connected with the pain caused by the anxiety colours and how they move from left to right. For this I decided to make duplicate copies of the image and place them in such a way they look as if they are moving to the right of the picture plane. To achieve this I adjusted their size and placed them moving up the picture plane, this can be seen in the image on the right below.
I then joined both of the images together so that we have a multiple self-portrait that communicates the chaos, pain, blinding colour, and movement that I have during an anxiety attack.
Although the last three months have been very, very difficult for me, emotionally, mentally and physically due to having so much chaos in my life, which is difficult to handle with CPTSD, I have still managed to produce Assignment 5. Although this assignment has been running late I cannot let time over shadow how much I have learnt from the research and the practical aspects of photography and the conceptual approach that I have completed.
I believe I have effectively shown how my mental health effects me and makes me feel, not in a realistic way like the works of Jo Spence for instance but in a creative photography way. I have enjoyed learning how to glitch images in Photoshop and within Apps on my iPad but for me it has been the concept that has had my enthusiasm the most. Asking myself how I can show my true self who has to live with mental health with its glitches that will appear when they want.
I have also been working on how I would like to showcase the works from the glitch series for my solo exhibition. This can be read about on this link to the post ‘Presentation’, here.