Tag Archives: Self Portriature

Black and White Skull Makeup Continued


Yesterday, I shared one of my self portraits with the black and white skull makeup and I thought I would add the rest of the photographs from the series. Once I’ve taken the photographs in the dark laneway, I decided to take some additional photos before I started to remove the makeup. I do enjoy experimenting with the makeup, my aim is to expand or enhance the overall design.


in my next attempt, I would create a different shape for the teeth and I would add some additional shadows around the eyes or the jaw line. In some of my previous posts, I have discussed my interpretations of death via black and white photography, I have highlighted the most crucial elements so I thought I would keep this particular post relatively short and simple. If you are interested in viewing the previous posts, just click on the link here for Death & the Photographic Image Part I and Part II


Towards the end of the night, I smudged the makeup in order to created a distressed or deteriorated effect that did create some interesting results. When I view the images, I sometimes can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve become my own personal representation of death. This is my first attempt with the black and white skull makeup in about two or three years and the photo shoot has provided an excellent opportunity for me to practise, I intend to continually develop or enhance the design.


The photographs are inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait, 1988 and the artist passed away in 1989 from AIDS, as referenced by the Tate Gallery Website.1 At first, I was fascinated with Mapplethorpe’s black and white self-portrait and the surrounding darkness definitely isolates the artist’s own face and his skull shaped cane; these particular elements have a profound effect in regards to my perceptions of death.


I regularly associated death with darkness and the reduction of colour or movement, although it’s so hard to articulate the ending of life, as there are so many different explanations. I have repeatedly mentioned these thoughts over the past couple of years and it will be interesting to see if these ideas will progressively change over time.


Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photographs and I have a surprise that I’m really excited about! I can’t wait to share the details!


1. Mc Ateer, Susan, Tate Gallery, “Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1989,” (Accessed 5/2/15) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/mapplethorpe-self-portrait-ar00496/text-summary

Self Portraits become distressed and decayed


Last Friday, I uploaded some self-portraits that I’ve taken in one of Melbourne’s deserted laneways, today I thought I would share some of the photographs that I have destroyed. I’ve undertaken a project / experiment where I’ve ripped or destroyed my own self-portraits using water and cello tape in order to determine whether these alterations increase my connection to death.

The modifications definitely provide a distressed, sinister appearance and I can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve destroyed the image of myself in order to create a different effect.I have often placed the smooth image opposite the decayed version in order to observe the process or the progression, this experiment often reminds me of a body slowly decaying into a corpse, which is something I’ve mentioned before in my previous posts and this is one particular thought that will continually reoccur when I view these images.


The scariest thought is the realisation that  I’ll start to decay or deteriorate once I’m dead and I’ve discovered that there is a similar parallel with the images that I’ve destroyed. At first, the photograph features a smooth, polished surface until it’s destroyed into something imperfect, flawed or decayed.

This is a really challenging task for me, as I will spend a long period of time preparing the make up for the photo shoot, installing the equipment and taking the photographs of myself. I often whether death is meant to feature a smooth, flawless or polished appearance? To me personally, I am able to establish a closer association to the concept of death through my distressed images, all the imperfections elevate the context of the work, the process from life to death isn’t a perfect experience.


The images remind me of my car accident back in 2010, where I sandwiched between two other cars, I was lucky to be alive actually. While I crumple the image in-between my hands, I continually remember the car crumpling into a square box, this was a very close encounter to death and I actually thought I would die in a matter of seconds. Destroying the images has become a reminder of my experience and the overall process has allowed me to face this memory instead of trying to forget everything all together.


Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased with my initial photographs although I do enjoy observing the smooth or polished surface of the image progressively transforming into an element of decay or deterioration. When I’ve crumpled the image, the texture provides a very interesting effect to the overall portrait and I’ve also rubbed the paper together in order to transfer the ink to another area of the photo, this technique also creates some very intriguing results.

There was one stage, where I experienced a printing error and the default created some very interesting filters with one of my photographs. Instead of throwing the photograph away, I wondered if I could use the image somehow. I crumpled the photograph and the texture complimented the colours, I don’t normally work with colour, although I thought this would be an interesting experimentation.


While I have established a closer connection to death through the reduction of colour, the filters as well as the uneven textures do present a level of decay or destruction. There are certain scenarios, where accidents or defaults can work in your favour, it’s interesting to utilise these mistakes and transform them into something interesting.

There is another distressed photograph that produced some very interesting colours featuring blue and orange and I purposely set the white balance incorrectly in order to determine whether the adjusted settings would create a different effect. These experimentations do create some very interesting styles that are worth exploring further or later down the track. I often reuse the same image in order to determine what I can create something interesting all together, there is just so much to explore, stay tuned!


Photographic Self-Portraits: Death and the Photographic Image II


In one of my previous posts, I uploaded some self-portraits / test shots that I’ve taken in a deserted laneway in North Melbourne. I painted a skull onto my face with some black and white makeup along with the Kryolan Supracolors and I visited same location for my scheduled photo shoot. I decided to assign myself with a challenge and I began to take the photographs of myself around 9pm at night, the lamp posts provided some additional lighting that successfully illuminated the dark laneway behind me.


About a couple of weeks ago, I briefly mentioned Susan Sontag’s theories in regards death and the photographic image. Sontag explains that a photograph has the potential to capture a “person’s mortality” and these explanations have invited me to consider my own interpretations of death.1 When I am standing still in front of the camera, I become completely motionless and the experience reminded me of death, I am confronted with the idea that the living body will eventually turn into a lifeless corpse and I have wondered whether death or the end of life results in darkness or complete silence. Sometimes I’ll view the images and I can’t even recognise myself, I’ve become something entirely different, the images have become a deathly version of myself, a persona or an alter ego.


The lamp-post created some very interesting colour combinations including blue, yellow, green and even orange, although I decided to change the images to black and white in order to establish my connection or association with death. A couple of years ago, I realised that the reduction of colour enhanced my association to death and my thoughts / opinions haven’t changed significantly during this particular time, this is quite an interesting discovery!


There was on particular moment during the shoot when the wind lifted my black cloak that successfully produced some very interesting photographs. When I viewed the images on-screen, I discovered at least five self-portraits that appear fairly similar to one another and they do work well as a series ,this would be another interesting idea for a stop motion animation. These images would work well as a story documenting the process of death, this is another concept I intend to explore further.


The graffiti in the background does provide a very interesting element and I intend to expand upon this project; using some other venues or locations across the city would be perfect! This is just the start anyway, I’m hoping to deconstruct or destroy these photographs in order to elicit the notion of death and decay. I hope you enjoy the photographs, stay tuned!


1.Susan Sontag. On Photography (USA: Penguin Group 1977), 15


In Front of the Mirror

10/2/13 – Inspired by Carrol Jerrems, Butterfly Behind the Glass, 1975

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to apply the makeup and face paint in front of the bathroom mirror. I didn’t realise how hot and humid it was outside so I just locked myself in the bathroom for a couple of hours. It’s quite strange when I look at my own reflection in the mirror with all the makeup on, on the other side there’s another person, another version of myself staring back at me.

The makeup appropriates the Mexican sugar skulls via black and white photography that allows me to realise that I have a skull hidden beneath a layer of skin, just like everyone else really. Basically I am using the shape of my own skull as the canvas, it’s actually strange to realise that I have painted a skull on top of another skull. When I look into the mirror, I see two different skulls, one that is internal and one that is external.

The makeup provides the realisation that one day I will eventually die, one day I will be buried into the ground to decay and disintegrate, it’s all a natural process of life. The image is inspired by Carol Jerrems, a contemporary photographer who explores “women’s liberation” in the 1970’s and “social inclusiveness for street youths” as referenced by the Monash Gallery of Art.

There was one photo in particular that captured my attention, “Butterfly Behind the Glass” features Red Symons from Skyhook applying makeup in front of the mirror. The juxtaposition between the two faces does create an interesting effect and the photo also portrays a level of movement especially in Symon’s gestures and facial expressions. I was drawn to the dark makeup around the eyes and the cheekbones, in a way the makeup does remind me of a butterfly.

I am also interested in the way Symon’s is looking at himself in the mirror, in fact Jerrems’s photography is visually interesting! I decided to appropriate Jerrems image with some makeup brushes, eye shadow and liquid eye liner; I hope to develop my technique and style the next upcoming weeks. It was way to hot to even walk outside, so I decided to execute my idea within my very own bathroom.

Carol Jerrem’s a Photographic Artist, Monash Gallery of Art, 2013, Accessed 18/2/13, http://www.mga.org.au/exhibition/view/exhibition/119


Black & White Self Portraits in Mirror


17/1/13 – Do the Black and White Photos Appropriate Death?

So I have been replicating the sugar skull imagery through the application of makeup and face paint. In these series of self-portriats, I have decided to stand in front of the mirror and take photographs of myself with the face paint. This process is easier then extending my arms in the air in order to take a photograph; I do actually have a tipod but for some reason, I can’t achieve the same results.


I don’t really use the tripod for my own self-portriats, I often like to experiment with various angles and compositions. Just holing the camera is easier than using the tripod; I just keep taking the photographs until I find at least two or three that I am pleased with. The photographs are inspired by Australian photographer, Sue ford who exhibited 47 black and white self-portriats at the Monash Gallery of Art in 2011. Ford’s most important works, including ‘Self-Portriat with Camera’ examine’s the artist’s own identity and self image.


What I do find fascinating is Ford’s an personal statement about her works that is also cited by the ‘Brummels Gallery of Photography, 1974″. Ford explains, “In Time Series I tried to use the camera as objectively as possible. It was a time machine. For me it was an amazing experience. It was until I placed the photograph of a younger face beside the recent photograph that I could fully appreciate the change” (Sue Ford)

It is interesting see the artist ageing through her own self-portriats; In a way, photography does take you back in time, photography documents a younger version of the self. It is quite a strange feeling when I look at myself in my self-portriats; the person in the photograph isn’t the same person I am today. I am constantly ageing, each day is another step closer to death.


This particular idea questions whether the living body is dying each day? In a way my portraits represent death; they represent a person that no longer exists. I’m older than the person in the photograph, I’ve actually aged since I have taken the photograph, I am no longer the same person that I used to be.

The self portraits have invited to explore my own interpretations of life and death. While the photograph documents my own presence, my own physical existence, my bodily being is permanently absent. Is absence an indication of death? I’m still trying to think of an answer for this question, so stay tuned! Enjoy the photographs!

Monash Gallery of Art, “Time Machine, Sue Ford”, Accessed 25/1/13, http://www.mga.org.au/exhibition/view/exhibition/86

“Time Series, 1977″, Brummels Gallery of Art, August 16 – September 9, 1974”, Sue Ford, Accessed 25/1/13, http://www.sueford.com.au/TIMESERIES1974.html

Black & White Portraits inspired by Sugar Skulls Part III


16/1/12 – Darkness

So I have decided to add some more work in progress photos. There was one afternoon, where I did have some free time so I decided to take 387 photographs. The sugar skull makeup does take a few hours to complete and I just keep taking photographs until the sun disappears. I have decided to darken the photographs; this particular effect intensifies my own personal connection to death.


For some reason, I always associate death with darkness; I then begin to wonder how the living body becomes a decomposing corpse. Once the body dies, I believe that the body submerges into complete darkness. My favourite image so far is the one with black and white sugar skull; the skull becomes the main focal paint within the image that contrasts with the makeup as well as the dark backdrop.


The skull does capture my attention immediately as well as the various patterns and designs. My face on the other hand appears to be submerging into darkness; the image does provide a very interesting juxtaposition between the actual sugar skull and the makeup.  I must admit, I was quite difficult to photograph myself with an SLR camera in one hand and a sugar skull in the other. This particular idea did require quite a lot of patience in order to capture a clear image.


When I decorated the sugar skull, I did have a problem with the icing sugar, the mixture was so runny it just decided to just spill all over the place. Instead of
throwing away the sugar skull, I decided to incorporate the mistake into the actual design. The skull does appear to be crying; this particular element does add an interesting effect to the photograph. Here are some more photographs for now, enjoy!

Robert Mapplethorpe:Self Portriat 1988

21/8/12 – Self Portriat Resonates the Life and Death of Robert Mapplethorpe 

Over the past few weeks I have developed an interest for self portraiture and black & white photography. In one of my class tutorials I have discovered the works of Robert Mapplethorpe whose work has featured a reference to death and the skull. According to John Ingledew, Robert Mapplethorpe has explored self portraiture in a creative format and the skull may resonate the artist’s own interpretations of death or mortality.

Ingledew also claims that there are only three distinguishable subjects within the actual photograph, Mapplethorpe himself, his hand and the skull that appears to be placed on top of a wooden walking stick. The direction of the light and the texture resembles a similar appearance to a walking stick although the image does not provide one specific explanation.

IngleDew quotes “Robert Mapplethorpe shows himself in a 1988 self portrait withered and dying fr0m AIDS. He grasps a cane topped with a small skull. It is one of the photographs in which every part is not fiercely defined by sharp focus. In stark, silvery black and white, the shiny detail of the skull is chillingly juxtaposed with Mapplethorpe’s haunted face – floating out of focus , receding into darkness” (Ingledew, 2005)

In regards to Ingledew’s argument, Mapplethorpe’s previous photographs are quite sensual and erotic that provide a strong emphasis on the human form. In the self portrait however, the artist’s body disappears from the surface of the image that creates quite an unusual composition between the metallic skull and Mapplethorpe’s face. The viewer is confronted with Mapplethorpe’s lifeless expressions that may also provide a sense of isolation and deterioration.

The self portrait also features vivid light, tone and composition that illuminates the skull on the very top of the walking stick. The skull becomes one of the main focal points within the image that is juxtaposed with the artist’s hand and the actual walking stick itself.  In relation to the self portrait is the skull an emblem of death and mortality?The composition between Mapplethorpe and the skull may encourage the viewer to speculate life and death in general. One may argue that the skull features far more facial expressions than the artist who may reflect a close connection with death. Mapplethorpe’s self portrait is a powerful image that may document the ‘presence’ and the ‘absence’ of the artist.

According to Leland Poague, Susan Sontag also theorizes the “presence and the absence” in photography that may resonate a particular moment in the past or a moment in time. A photograph may provide the ability to remember certain aspects of a person’s life although the photograph also invites one to acknowledge the absence of a close friend or a family member.

Poague also mentions Freud’s interpretations of the conscience and how the mind processes a certain loss or an absence  “In Freudian terms, absence or loss leads to a doubling; the lost object is not let go of but represented, a representation that is subsequently incorporated, as conscience” (Poague, 2000) In response to Pogue’s arguments, the photograph could be considered as a form of duplication that records a person’s physical existence. A photograph may trigger the viewer’s own memory or perception of the subjects within the actual photograph itself.

Poague also quotes “We can say with a fascination with photography is already a fascination with death, a way of taking it bit by bit as if photography was a form of mourning” (Poague, 2000) One could argue that photography is used to remember and celebrate a person’s life, at the same time photography can also provide the ability to grief over the loss of a loved one. I suppose photography is a subjective medium that resonates a different experience and interpretation from each person. Not every person will have the same response to a particualr image or photograph and the representation itself has a power to create a range of different emotions.

In Mapplethorpe’s portrait may document the artist’s spirit or entity that also reflects a ‘presence and an absence’ within the photograph. John Claridge quotes “With portraits it’s always the spirit that’s captured in the picture not the technical expertise”  (Claridge, 2000) The self portrait is a very striking image that successfully captures the life and the death of Robert Mapplethorpe who will continue to influence contemporary art within the 21st century.

Ingledew, John, Photography (London: Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, 2005 ) p.39

Poague, Leland, Susan Sontag: An Annotated Bibliography 1948-1992 (New York: Garland Publishing Inc, 2000) p.li – liii

John Claridge in Portraits: Developing Style in Creative Photography (Switzerland: Rotovison, 2000) p.51

Image Citation: http://orangemercury.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/robert-mapplethorpe-self-portrait.html