Tuesday, 16 July 2013

I make shadows

I was inspired to share after a conversation with a friend. I think very few know how I made the bulk of my self-portraits so she assumed like so many that I had used software, like Adobe Photoshop. Where is the fun in that? Light and the resulting shadows are very enticing to me. So I thought I would share some of the work involved with photographing my self-portraits. The bulk of the projects have very little processing done beyond colour and levels. I much prefer making my own textures/shadows and then to project them onto myself.

The shadows for the series 'blight' were cast from Mica which belongs to the group of sheet silicate (phyllosilicate) minerals. By holding it up to the light the imperfections and cracks was the ideal material to use for this project. Separates very easily but also breaks with the same ease. Early experiments started showing up in the Self series. A small frame had to be constructed just to hold them in place.

The 'self' series was a melting pot, a search really to find a way to mark myself. So every single material was fair game. The stronger images were created by etching a design onto plastic. This gives a light shadow put by using a permanent marker I could really control everything. It was also good for hiding secret meanings in-between layers. Also water and theatrical blood was used.

The 'natures shadow' series used materials from nature. Some are more obvious than others like Lichen or a cracked dried leaf. Some look completely alien and at odds with nature but came from combining materials and introducing finer lines like the seeds from a thistle.

The 'shadows fall' series started life on a large piece of A3 paper. Over the course several weeks I drew countless flowing lines and designs. It was a case then of trying to match these up to my face and a possible pose. Once I had narrowed this down it was a case of cutting out the areas that would be in light. A large project, not all is shown on-line.

I think it is worth mentioning the 'within' series which used five panels of glass to capture my reflection as well as the reflection of any material I introduced. The photograph is a reflection of me and because of the strong light on the chosen material this would reflect onto the multiple glass layers. By changing the angles of the glass it really added a noise within. It summed up how I viewed depression at the time. It is funny looking back, I was trying to explore how I could visualise depression while I was still suffering in it but it was unknown to me. So every photograph just caused so much turmoil and I could not understand why.

'Metamorphosis' was drawn on plastic to begin with then I added light scratches as well to collect/pool the ink. This was the first project using this technique and was very good at showing me how light bends/wraps/embraces around the face and body. Adding detail and colour this way can be very subtle, a very light touch.

The last experiments were easier, I could work much quicker. I work now is to draw onto a roll of plastic. When I fill it I simply pull it and start again. Working to theme/idea/thought means these can be stacked into layers. Something I did not mention is multiple light sources. This is really interesting and allows me to project more shadows onto a larger are of the body. My very first self-portraits helped me with my self-image but there are always two sides to every coin. The other side shows my view of myself which was very toxic as I suffered from acute depression.

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