Today something exciting happened. I was doing some exercises, lying on my back, both arms raised above me. The morning light, the white ceiling behind, a light suntan, revealed how wrinkly my skin has become. I hadn’t noticed. Because my arms were held straight up, there was a noticeable skin sag happening around my hands too, revealing landscapes, like dried river beds, or cracks in the river silt of the Severn. I became mesmerised.
I took several shots of my hands and while I did I reflected on the video work I did for my MA. That was a series of films in an installation, close-up images of body parts, morphing and squeezing, all viewed through a mirror tunnel, which created a virtual ball of slow moving ambiguous flesh-bodies. Other video clips of my face against a mirror were shown inside a mirror-topped plinth with a peepholes in the centre of the mirror. As the viewer leant over and looked in, they also saw their own face reflected on the surface while they viewed the video inside.
I reflected on the gaze – Martin Jay’s book has always hung in my mind and informed my understanding of how we view, and are viewed. My mind slipped into the traditions of self-portraits, the glum looks, the depth of the stare needed to portray oneself. I went on to consider selfies, the contemporary form of self-portraiture that is the opposite of the artist self-portrait. The selfie is not about self examination, but one of self-display, of performing to camera.
As someone who enjoys using lens-based media – camera, 360 or video, I am very self-aware of my aversion to being photographed myself. As I lay there on my back, wondering at what I could see, and what I could frame, with my mobile phone, I switched it to selfie mode and explored. I brought the lens in close to my face, to remove the portraiture and reveal the surface, the landscape, of my skin. I held it steady and closed my eyes before shooting. I made several, mostly of my face. I was intrigued how foetal they looked. Lying on my back, eyes closed, there was no tension, I was relaxed and playing. As I thought about it I smiled, and caught the smile growing on my face.
I think I have found my new muse. Not a riverscape, but one of my body, of shifts and change, of how we perceive ourselves through self-portraiture and lenses.