We have made self portraits before. You will remember that, in Book 2, we each drew a portrait of ourselves in pencil or charcoal, looking carefully at the surface details of our faces in a mirror. Later we photocopied and enlarged photos of our own faces, and then collaged onto them, to create new images of ourselves: new selves. We have made photographic portraits of each other posing, dressed up, as if in a photo studio: inventing all sorts of new personas for ourselves: becoming someone else.
Or perhaps these characters that we created, were our real, truer, selves?
We are so programmed to see everyday things in the expected ways (even like our own and each others’ faces, for example) – that can it be a shock to see them altered. Does this visual shock make us see or think differently? How does it change our perceptions? As we have seen, the Surrealist artists in Europe believed this could help us to access much deeper parts of our psyches and go beyond the ordinariness of things.
After this activity, we will talk about that.
You will need:
Cameras or cellphone cameras (not every student needs one – you can share)
A collection of random objects, paper, cardboard, found bits and pieces – such as electrical bits, carpentry bits, objects from the kitchen, the toolbox, the car mechanic’s workshop
Wire or glue
As we have seen, Man Ray created new meanings for the faces by the way he photographed them (as if – as he said – he was photographing an idea or a dream of the person). You too will create a photograph that seems to be “an idea or a dream” of your face.
Build a small “monocle” – an object that will frame or partly obscure your face – from just two or three carefully chosen (and probably unrelated) objects. Use this to partially hide your face but also to change it.
Then take a selfie of your semi-obscured and altered face. Take it close-up so that your face almost fills the screen.
Digitally remove all the colour: a monotone (black and white) image (like Man Ray’s).
If it is possible, print out one chosen image for each of you. If not possible to print out, look at all the images on your cellphones or on a computer screen.
Talk About This
In what way does the “monocle” change you?
Who or what is that “idea or dream” of a face in the picture? How does it make you feel?
Why do you think we suggested taking out all the colour, making it a black and white photograph? Compare a full-colour version with the black and white version. What is the difference in effect?