Origins & Foreword
This project was an extension of my dissertation research on selfies and identity. In my dissertation I proposed that the selfies fulfil three major functions:
The performative aspect of the selfie extends further into an identity-branding function; we perform to be (and become) our ideal selves and this performances are constantly adjusted by peer feedback.
The conversational function of the selfie communicates all these ideas; a never-ending exchange of utterance and response where verbal and visual communications mix in order to produce a complex narrative, mediated by social media channels.
My Final Major Project takes into consideration all three functions; however, it attempts to take this discussion a step further into a hypothetical stage of alienation, where the selfie from a simple tool, has become the sole purpose.
Is There Anybody Out There?
What if no one sees our selfies? What if we desperately need an approval if who we are and we use selfies trying to communicate this message to peers? What if no peers want to engage in conversation?
In the age of social media there is the risk of feeling alone among the (online) crowd. Social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook are full of examples of people snapping their own photos many times a day, with and without any particular reason, using enhancement tools provided by the social media channel. I am certain that anyone with some social media presence has at least two ‘serial selfie snappers’ in their friends list - one of mines shown on the right.
But if there is no one to respond to our utterance, if there is no peer pressure to which we “adjust” our selves, are we not falling deeper and deeper into the pit of alienation, loneliness and desperate approval-seeking and thus, are we not going even further away from our selves?
So the starting question of my project was:
If unobserved and unanswered, can an excessive selfie-taking instead of facilitating the creation of our autobiographical self lead to creating a downward spiralling vacuum, where our identities bounce incessantly between ourselves and our skewed perception of ourselves?
The Mirror Stage
J. D. Salinger is one of my all-times favourite writers and although I like the “Catcher in the Rye” (by far his most popular book), my true favourites are the novels about the Glass Family. In these novels his setting is often a bathroom - the space where one can remain unobserved and does not need to take on a social role, but rather be themselves. In the “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” (published in 1963 together with “Seymour: An Introduction”) a communication between two family members who are not present in the novel is read by a third family member - a message written with soap on the bathroom mirror. I cannot help but like the symbolism of Salinger - the bathroom as the soul-cleansing personal space, which is often invaded by uninvited family members; a message that appears next to your face, written with perishable substance. While reading through Lacan’s work (The Mirror Stage, 1949), that mental image of the bathroom scene from “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” kept popping into my mind. Why are mirrors of such importance to us; why was Vivian Maier fascinated by reflective surfaces and imposed her reflections onto scenes she does not belong to; why was I subconsciously superimposing reflections on scenes while shooting weddings, often being featured in the reflections myself?
Mirror reflections are not reality - they are the opposite of reality. They are the reflected image of reality. And this is what selfies give us - an image which is the exact opposite of reality.
When deciding how to visualise my idea, I went through few ideas like a selfie-taking vanity mirror or studio set up. Then looking back at old work, I found images from a wedding at the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket. And the setting there suddenly made perfect sense. The pompousness and poshness of the King’s Suite represented the perfect imaginary setting with its golden framed carved wood mirrors, heavy dark paintings, the four poster bed in the bedroom and horse racing memorabilia on the shelves in the living room. It is not that pompousness and poshness is the ultimate goal for everyone - it is that the pompousness and poshness will normally be decoded as symbol of success on many different levels.
I needed a model who will look like they don’t belong in this setting; I wanted to have this discrepancy between the model and setting. I wanted the viewer to have the feeling that they are looking into someone’s mind and can see them as they are in the setting that they strive to achieve.
The model was worried about having jeans and trainers on; I have intentionally asked her to put simple everyday black clothes and not to worry about the shoes. She is physically in the room but she feels uncomfortable, like she happened to be there by mistake. I used the natural lighting of both the bedroom and living room and the model faces the light source every time - I wanted her to face the light and leave the shadows behind her.
The bathroom setting was a direct result of any mirror-related thought and idea that I had. Although initially I did not want any recognisable facial features in the photos, the image on the right is impactful because the viewer makes contact with the model’s eyes. But what is actually impactful is that this is not the model herself - it is her reflection that is staring back directly into the lens.
The last set of images is a simple play with mirror - the model face is not visible and we can only guess about her identity from what we see in the image. The background is completely black - the vacuum of solitude and the lack of the presence of others.
The Exhibition Feedback
Overall feedback from the MA show visitors was that:
All images were displayed in pairs and this is a very important decision that I made in the process - I wanted to accentuate the mirror effect and to take it out of the photograph frame and into the exhibition layout.
The custom made USB folio - the perfect keepsake for your wedding photos. In this most recent example in linen, but also available in full image wrap hard cover or leatherette. Included with each wedding.
The collection of Cambridge colleges where I shot weddings and engagements is growing - this summer I added Murray Edwards College, Magdalene College and St Edmunds College to my portfolio. I love shooting weddings in all of them because of the meticulous organisation and the high level of service they provide. So, the list so far looks like that:
- Trinity College
- Queens' College
- Murray Edwards College
- St Edmunds College
- Downing College
- Magdalene College
- Pembroke College
And here are some photos:
My extensive experience in marketing and advertising has thought me one thing - if you don't set up the rules, everyone will mess around with your corporate identity. That's why when designing a logo I always design a logo manual - sort of instruction manual about the logo, the colours, the proportions, the positioning, etc. and send it to my client (in an email usually with the subject: your bible). If you are not a big corporation with thousands of applications and an army of other companies that are using your identity, all you need is something as simple as this:
Even if you are at the very start, it always help setting up some guidelines. They will probably change with time - companies and their image are living and ever-changing things just as people are - develop, adjust, adapt; they will grow with your company and, more or less, respond to current trends. Regardless - it is always useful (and fun!) to do it.
I am reopening an old project which I had no time to finish last year. Saudade still interests me for many reasons - linguistic, sociological, historical and not the least - personal. Saudade is so far the best word to explain the way I felt after I left my favourite place and my home for 7 years - I often think of my life there and sometimes secretly wish that I can go back and be this previous version of me again.
For those who don't know what saudade is, here is possibly the nearest description by Aubry Bell (1912):
‘a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness’
Even after 10 years living at a different place in a different part of the world, I am still giving into this 'dreaming wistfulness' and my new word falls apart for a moment and I stop being who I am.
Tulips are my favourite flowers. Don't ask my why - I probably won't be able to answer this question... Maybe because they are elegant and different, maybe because they don't last long... These images are of my Valentine's Day bouquet which I found really difficult to say goodbye to. I wanted to keep them, I wanted to always have them... So I took photos of them.
While shooting, I am usually so into the set up and the details that I often forget to do the behind the scenes shots and video. Yesterday was no different - it was only towards the end of the photo shoot that I remembered.
We were shooting again at the lovely Hockwold Hall on the border between Suffolk and Norwich. And the weather behaved beautifully for this time of the year! For the majority of photos I used the natural light coming from the big marquee windows.
This is Elizabeth Dickens Veils new collection of bridal veils and, oh my, are they beautiful! Nina from Elizabeth Dickens designs all Veils and they are all manufactured in Soham - just outside Cambridge and Newmarket.
We worked with two gorgeous models - Grace and Kathryn, had beautiful flower arrangements and bridal bouquet from Sally and hair and makeup by Julie. I will soon properly credit everyone as the team was absolutely brilliant.
22nd January 2017 - I was really looking forward to this date. This was my first ever Newmarket Wedding Show. And I am so happy to have been there! I met lots of lovely people - brides, grooms, families and other wedding suppliers - and had some wonderful time.
So, here is the offer for wedding photography - any question? Just shoot!
It's been a pleasure for a second year to photograph the Christmas celebrations of Encore Estates Management. First of all - these guys know how to throw a party! Secondly - it felt again like a family event. The dynamics of the office party are a good sign of the relationship a company has with its people and I have been lucky to be part of the Encore team again, even for a short time. Thank you!
Had a wonderful time shooting at the Newmarket Winter Wonderland this year. The lantern parade was great and the three camels on the Newmarket High Street were a thing to remember!