1.1 Produce a series of five portraits of strangers from a variety of backgrounds. These people must differ from you in some significant respect e.g. age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, social class etc.
1.3 Gerry badger points out “there are divisions other than class, ideology, race’ etc – using this a framework make five portraits of people with whom you feel you have an affinity, where you could conceivable be on the inside.
Before I link to the 11 portraits I am including for this exercise I want to talk a little about why I am submitting these together.
I do not like the term ‘other’ at all although I know it is used constantly in this field by philosophers, artists, teachers. I said recently I wanted to stop using it in these terms altogether. The primary and ultimate other in my life, my mother, laughed, and said, “aren’t you on a course called something or Other?” Yes, I mumbled feeling dispirited and annoyed with it all. Click here for a much longer blog about why I feel this way.
Exercise 1 – Produce portraits of strangers. I do produce portraits of strangers as often as I can convince people to pay me to do so. I enjoy doing it most of the time although as I said at the beginning of the course there are times when I have to steel myself to enter into people’s lives, perhaps because of the mood I’m in or because I pick up that I’m different to the clients in some way. Yes, they are ‘other’ to me somehow. But in all but one or two cases during the last 3 years, once working, I am able to overcome any trepidation and can usually find a way to connect and find an affinity regardless of whether I’m in a posh expensive house in Wandsworth, an office in the City or a field in Northern France.
My problem with the word is that all people are essentially other to me and to everyone. I separated from my mother in toddlerhood and thereafter there are in my mind, others and me (as it is for everyone with a relatively sound mind). There is much to say about ‘groupishness’ a term coined by Edward O Wilson, and I will explore that more as we move forward with the course. But suffice to say here, if we keep reinforcing the concept of other in terms of group difference then we only add to the problems humanity faces as it clings to a Hegelian Master/Slave dialectic which is the source of so much trouble.
Therefore I have presented 11 images here that represent both others and people who I have an affinity with. They are a mix of strangers and people I know a little or very well. It is up to the viewer to reach conclusions about who they think is other or not to me. I was intrigued by the Szondi Test – where images are used to ascertain a character type depending on which images the test subject chose, and how they responded to the faces. Rather than being able to tell something about the portrait, a response to the portraits tells us something about the viewer.
I used this exercise to experiment with lighting as I am far more comfortable with natural light and these are taken with strobes. This was a useful task for me.
Some issues with using the particular venue as that it is upstairs and in a pub so not suitable for everyone (but the space is free for me whereas other spaces such as the one I used this morning are prohibitively expensive – a studio space is a luxury). This meant I took some images downstairs and planned to take some more in another venue but in the end, I have submitted the following as they work as a series, and demonstrate something relevant for the exercise. But it is not ideal. I have other images that I may make use of elsewhere.
I have a Release and Agreement Form for all but one of these images and can make sure I rectify that as it is a neighbour. I will not post them online though as they give away personal information.
Click on image to view (c)SJField 2017