Self Portrait Experience – © Cristina Nuñez


My FMP is about capturing the loss of the person I care most about and the titanic struggle to find a way to carry on. Paul Strand said that ‘Your photography is a record of your living, and today, we might add, of your unconscious mind too.’ (Adams and Byrne 1994: 119). I have lived for 30 years with the love of my life chronically ill and, in the end, totally paralysed and in pain. In January this year she went to Switzerland to die with dignity.

The key themes of the project focus on my psychological journey. They are:

• Life and death.
• Loss, failure and defeat.
• Pain.
• Grief.
• Vulnerability.
• Survival.
• Hope.
• Strength.
• Renewal.

In previous modules I searched for other practitioners who had explored this subject and discovered Cristina Nuñez. Cristina wrote the book ‘Higher Self – The Self Portrait Experience’ with a companion book of images ‘But Beautiful.’ She gave a TED talk on her work TED Talk Link . She now has a doctorate in the subject of using self portraits and the unconscious to create art. In the last module I spoke to Cristina at length who was generous in looking at my work and engaging in conversations about the subject.

I am enrolled in the global online workshop over May to July this year which will provide important material and critical evaluation for my FMP. This workshop has 14 participants including members in New Zealand, Australia, Israel, USA, France, England and Spain. The experience is described below from the introduction to the workshop. Link

I will include in my CRJ the progress in this workshop.

The Self Portrait Experience (SPEX)

The Self-Portrait Experience (SPEX) is an artistic device created by Cristina Nuñez in 2004, which uses autobiographical art with photography and video, for individual and social transformation. It is based on Nuñez’s personal practice with self-portrait since 1988 to overcome the self-stigma resulting from her heroin addiction in adolescence.

SPEX is a journey through all aspects of one’s life, with a series of artistic exercises, divided in three parts:

  • ME: emotions, character representation, body, places, roots.
  • ME AND THE OTHER: one-to-one relationship self-portraits and portraits
  • ME AND THE WORLD: group portraits and self-portraits

Participants work individually and in group, on the multiple perceptions of the works produced, following SPEX’s artistic criteria of perception and choice, to discover that our perception is ever-changing and to establish an on-going dialogue with and between the images. Little by little participants build sequences that give shape to their self-portrait project, which can be the beginning of their visual autobiography.

SPEX: the objectives

SPEX is a powerful tool to transform our lives into works of art, which allow the expression of our authentic self, to:

1. Stimulate the unconscious creative process by transforming emotions into works of art.

2. Enrich and strengthen the participants’ self-image and self-perception.

3. To enrich and strengthen the public image of the participants and their perception of others and of society.

4. Through the publication of the images and the projects, create a mirror in which viewers can reflect and identify themselves. So we defend emotional expression through art, to propose a society more focused on the authentic needs of human beings.

SPEX: the videos

To better understand SPEX, watch the videos of Cristina Nuñez, Someone to Love and Higher Self.

Someone to Love brings together for the first time the best self-portraits made by Cristina Nuñez during her life. The author’s voice accompanies the viewer through her family history and her childhood, her troubled adolescence as a heroin addict and the evolution of her self-image, her relationships and the discovery of the self-portrait as an instrument of self-therapy. The last sequence shows the project on her mother’s life, including collaborative self-portraits and family pictures, right up to her last breath.’


ADAMS, Robert and Wendy BYRNE. 1994. Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews. 1st edn. New York: Aperture.

Categories: Final Major Project, Project Development FMP, Self Portrait Experience 2020 FMP


I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.