That’s not really me!

Posted on June 14, 2013


I have been developing an idea for a new project for YOP. I find that I need to set down my thoughts in writing and by constantly revisiting the text I can start to move towards resolution. The project will explore the ‘What  do I look like ? dimension within my broader theme of ‘Realism and the Photographic Portrait’.

‘That’s not really me!’ refers to the typical reaction of people when they see a passport photograph of themselves. Most people hate having a passport photograph made. The formal design is very unflattering, e.g. flat lighting, en-face, no accessories and so on. No ‘idealisation’ is permitted, so the airbrush has to be suspended. People often go back to be re-photographed trying to capture an image they believe looks like them. (Or more honestly, looks like the image of themselves they want to project). A good friend recently commented on her new passport photograph with the remark ‘Camera malfunction or mug shot of a drug addict?’ Clearly the idea that a single image can represent someone’s identity is problematic. ‘That’s not really me!’ investigates this issue through a series of portraits.

The basic idea is to produce four portraits for each subject, to be presented side by side in a horizontal row. This style of presentation alludes to the format produced by studio photographers for passport photographs. The passport authorities require everyone to supply several identical portraits, apparently to avoid any ambiguity. But how do people decide which image out of many is the right one? In practice the process is somewhat random. It is the arbitrary nature by which a passport image is chosen, and by inference the way we are identified, that I want to explore.

My plan would be to show the photographs in a very large format – many times larger than life size. (see mock up below). It is easy to overlook small nuances of expression in a small passport-sized photograph, but at the scale I envisage every little detail would be visible and the photographs would command attention emphasising difference not similarity. The work will be in colour and the formal design of the portraits will follow the UK regulations for passport photographs in all respects except for size.

2D mock up of 'That's not really me!' installation

2D mock up of ‘That’s not really me!’ installation

I have set out a more detailed (slightly) note (see pdf link below). At the moment I am wondering if the idea is too simplistic and too obvious. On the other hand I found with the ’45 Seconds…’ project that making things too complicated and tricky created the impression that the work was contrived and mannered. This is a starting point and the next step is to take some photographs, and hopefully get some feedback from others.

Initial Idea – That’s not really me!