Self Portraits inspired by Christian Boltanski.

30/9/12 – Work In Progress: Self Portraits and Photographic Work

At the moment I have been trying to manipulate my own photographs through traditional printing techniques. I have been using a digital SLR camera, although I thought that I would try to modify the photographs without using photoshop. I have been testing my ideas on normal cartridge paper through an inkjet printer. Instead of using photoshop I have been dipping photographs into water, ripping, tearing and cutting the paper into segments in order to create a different effect.

I also found one of my visual diary’s that I had bought when I was in High School, although I had realised that I have never used it. I had removed the folio from the back of my closet and I decided to use it for all of my experiments that I am currently working on at the moment.

Drawings, Photographs displayed on my Wardrobe Door. 

I have discovered that dipping the photograph into a tray of water will remove some of the ink from the image. This particular process adds light and texture to the actual image and ink that has been used for the photographs does tend to change colour.

I have also reconstructed my own photographs and in some of the images I’ve also applied black paint to the surface. I have been experimenting with as many techniques, styles and methods that I could possibly think of. At the moment I am trying to find ways to change the exposure, the lightness and the contrast of the photographs without using modern technology.

I must admit, it has been difficult to abandon the computer, especially photoshop but it has provided an insight into different methods and techniques. I intend to manipulate, distort and fragment the photographs until it is time to actually display some work in my exhibition.I decided to sprawl all of my work onto the floor and take a photograph of everything that I have produced so far.

Christian Boltanski, Humans 1994

Christian Boltanski 

The way I have sprawled my photographs all over the floor and the walls reminds me of Christian Boltanski’s photography. There is one installation in particular that I have found inspirational especially for the final display of my photographic work. According to the Guggenheim website, Humans 1994 by Christian Boltanski questions the representation of death in photography through a series of black and white portraits that cover the entire gallery space.

Boltanski’s family portraits evoke a certain presence and an absence through the lens of the camera. The way the photographs are displayed is very interesting and the Guggenheim also describes the artists portraits as a “monument”. In “Camera Lucida”, Roland Barthes explains his own interpretations of the photograph as a “monument”. Barthes quotes “Death itself should be immortal: this was the monument. But by making the (mortal) photograph into the general and somehow natural witness of what has been, modern society has renounced the monument” (Barthes, 1993 p.93)

I do find it quite difficult to personally reflect on Boltanski’s work through the images on the Internet and I do believe that I would engage with the works on an emotional level if I was present in the actual gallery space. Humans 1994 features such an interesting and unique display that may possibly generate a personal and an emotional response from the viewer. One can argue that the display in the gallery space may alter the meaning and the context of the photographs. Over the next few weeks, I do intend to research other works and exhibitions by Chrisitan Boltanski for ideas and inspiration.

Guggenheim, “Christian Boltanski”, Guggenheim Art Gallery, 2012 (Accessed 1/10/12)

Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida Translated by Richard Howard.  London: Vintage Books, 1993. p. 93

Image Citations:

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