I have developed the idea of creating a retreat and workshops to use photography to explore the self. It is very consistent with the work of Cristina Nuñez Self Portrait Experience in which she helps people explore me, me and other and me and the world. I plan to try out Cristina’s own method over the xmas break from her book ‘Higher Self. The Self Portrait Experience.’ which I now own.
Last week I had two volunteers willing to participate in an early test of my work. Kate and Steve, great University friends of Karens from their Bristol days together. I put a brief together which I shared with them. I then said they would be left in the studio by themselves with the camera on timed exposures of a shot every 15 seconds. Prior to each situation I would give each of them a scenario to consider while they were being photographed.
The aim of this self portrait sitting is to capture images of you while you are thinking about certain scenarios. I will give you four different scenarios. A scenario could be ‘imagine you are sitting at a café in Paris and are remembering all the great books you have read.’ In each scenario you will be alone facing the camera. An exposure will be taken every 15 seconds for three minutes for each scenario.
As far as is possible ignore the camera and immerse yourself in the scenario. You are welcome to express yourself in any way that occurs to you. Try to notice if your mind wanders from the current scenario and if it does bring yourself back.
Afterwards we will look at the images together and discuss what we see.
Just be you.
You are sitting in your favourite chair and your mother comes to mind. You start to remember moments with her from your childhood. Picture these moments, freeze some frames and look at them. Then move on to the next one.
A sample 2 images from Steve followed by 2 images from Kate in this scenario.
Neither knew the scenario before going in the studio so it is interesting to see both cupping their hands around their face.
Remember a time in your life when you feel that you failed. Run that failure through your mind again. Really have a go at yourself for all the things you did wrong at that time.
Imagine the camera is the person you love most in the world. Express your feelings for that person as you think about them.
Both point hands forward with full open eyes and both rest their head to one side in a relaxed smiling pose.
Communicate with your inner mother. This is the part of you that can care for and nourish you. Tell yourself how special you are. Praise yourself. Tell yourself how you are going to take care of yourself. Love yourself.
Kate and Steve were very comfortable with the experience and found it interesting. The next stage in the development of this product will be to engage with subjects in an exploration of the photographs taken. I will do some work on the type of questions to ask to prompt the subject to talk.
The other question that interests me is whether to go down the road of directing the subjects with scripted scenarios or to allow the subjects free form choice which we then use in dialogue in an enquiry.
This small sample suggests interesting things are happening when leaving subjects alone with a camera and a scripted scenario. Further work is to read Cristina’s book and to try out her method on myself. I can then expand the work above with some knowledge of what has been done so far in this field.
Sian Davey, Jo Spence, Rosie Martin, Elena Brotherus and Del Loewenthal are other sources to explore for what has been done using the camera to explore ourselves and those around us.
Nuñez, C. 2012. Higher Self. The Self Portrait Experience. Generaltat de Catalunya. Dept of Culture.