A colleague of mine has created an interesting set of images focussed around different identities – see here Stan’s concept is outlined in his draft statement here. The approach resonated with me and my work because they both share issues of identity at their centres even though Stan is approaching it from the point of view of staged portraiture and I am approaching it from all angles except portraiture.
Indeed it is Stan’s approach that can demonstrate just why I have focussed away from the person and the body as while his photos are all staged self portraits with props creating a persona, he has limited his approach to changing things that can be quite easily achieved. The things he can’t change easily – showing himself to be a white middle aged man – he has left fixed, and this is where my conceptual approach and his connect and depart.
Stan makes the point that images both detach the subject from the real and can be created but also can be misread and so I would argue ascribed with values that may or may not be valid. This is very true and applies not only to photos and images but meeting people in real life.
Of course, people create impressions wittingly or not. But our impression management can only go so far. Stan’s set of images will find the edges of credibility and social acceptance if he were to include representations of himself as a women or person of colour. We know this because of social responses when it occurs. For example this is what the New Statesman had to say on the subject.
“…impersonating a black person is offensive because it is so fraught with history. Blacking up is mockery, and it’s dehumanising, with its symbolism of a grinning, infantilised rascal dancing around for the amusement of others.” (Samira Shackle, 2009)
This is true in terms of photography. I wonder what the response would have been if Stan had presented one of his images as a disabled person or black man. Would it be seen as acceptable commentary on identity or an insult? I plan to look into the area of representation a little more by looking at representation of women and disability, men and disability, racial groups and disability and queer photography and disability to see how meaning is created by the visual representation for them.
Shackle S. (2009) Blacking up: Nope, it’s Still Not Funny published in the news Statesman Available here: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2009/12/black-offensive-tory-white [Accessed on: 10/11/2014]