#Picbod – Introduction and The Self-Portrait

On Thursday 9th January 2014, I started my #Picbod module. This resulted in me attending an introductory lecture, followed by a lecture by Dr Adrienne Evans, before taking part in workshop exercises and being given our first weekly task. All of the notes that I took from these sessions can be found below:


  • Address complex aesthetic, creative and technical issues
  • Nude vs. Naked
  • Empowering our subjects
  • Negotiation
  • The tribe, communities
  • The artifact and the artisan
  • The digital repli(cant)
  • Representation of our bodies and identities from ourselves and from others
  • We want to get the best story and image from our subjects


  • Open class
    • Requires active engagement
    • Moodle – not spending a lot of time putting things on media – rather on the main picbod site:
  • Picbod.org
    • 10 weeks – 10 posts
    • Date and title of each week
    • Tasks and notes can be found on these posts
    • This is where the contents will live
  • Google+ community
    • Linked on Moodle and picbod.org
    • Moderators of community, of site Ownership
    • Your posts – always link back to your blog and never put your images themselves in that community
  • Can tweet through lectures and seminars – #picbod
  • Blogs
    • Work that we are producing and any lecture notes
  • Guest Lecturers
    • Dr Adrienne Evans
    • Anthony Luvera
    • Jennifer Pattison
    • Jonathan Worth
    • Wasma Mansour
  • Have one main assignment
  • Have weekly tasks for the first five weeks of picbod
    • Quick responses to the material we’ve had in seminars
    • There are alternative tasks – have to do the main task, can do the alternative task as well if we want
  • Feedback
    • We’ll get feedback every week
    • Print everything that we need to look at
    • Quick laserjet prints
    • Want to look at physical things
  • Technical workshops
  • Final Assignment
    • Culmination of this process
    • On moodle and on the picbod page
    • Single, lens based exhibition-ready photographic piece
    • Themes contemplated within the lecture series should be address within our work
    • Really high quality
    • Considered piece of work – is that supporting our concept?
    • Physical and virtual environments
    • Work should inhabit and challenge the viewer’s experience in both environments


The 180 Second Project

  • Do Miley Cyrus and Rihanna have control over their sexually shown bodies
  • How are men implicated in this sexualisation of culture

What is the body?

  • Is the body just a bag of bones?
  • The way we understand the body is much more than this
    • Bodies are constructed – we highlight aspects of our personalities through our bodies
    • Restricted by historical, social and cultural norms
    • Restricted by their social position
  • Defines what we do
  • Means that we have to learn to understand the body and what it means

The media shapes how we understand ourselves and our bodies

  • Visual culture shows homogenous bodies
  • The female body usually show dark, sexual desires
  • The male body usually show strength and we often see the Latin male bodies
  • Regularly represented to us in the media

How do we represent ourselves?

  • Range of new technologies able to re-present ourselves in different ways
  • Photoshop – if we want to we can have completely digital bodies
  • We can engage in the world around us through social media
  • Participatory culture = promise of “authentic” accounts of the self
  • But still a limited number of ways this is used


  • What kind of bodies were being represented?
  • What’s the ideal body?
    • Slender and curvy females and strong males
    • Young
    • Majority of brunette’s
    • Male and women – paired off at the end, sexual atmosphere (heterosexual)
  • Who is excluded from the ideal?
    • Older
    • Overweight
    • Racial minority
    • Disabilities
  • What’s the contradiction?
    • They all end up looking the same
    • Theories of representation
      • The body is a social construction

The Gaze

  • What does it feel like to be looked at?
    • Feel like a person
    • Reminds us that we are somebody and have a body
    • Subconsciously reminds us and recognize us as a person
    • Can make us feel quite uncomfortable – we can’t get inside somebodies head
    • We don’t know if there are seeing another person or another object


  • Inspired feminist theories
  • Turning people into an object for our own gain
  • Women – an instrument of sexual and pleasurable desire
  • Camera is a tool for objectification

Abject and Disgust

  • Abject is somewhere between the subject/object
  • Julia Kristeva (1982) defines abjects as things that pass in and out of the body
    • Most disgusting body according to Kristeva is the dead body
    • As do those that come close to death – for example, the extremely overweight and underweight

Limits of representation

  • Venus Hottentot
    • Sarah Baartman born into slavery (died in 1815)
    • Freak show act in England and experimented on in France – fascination with her body
    • Parts of her body were displayed until 2002 – including her genitalia
    • Shows the lived, real affect of objectification

Sarah Baartman

  • Gender (In)equality
    • Long history of gender repression – only recently that women been seen as human
    • Thought that if you were a smart woman it would affect your reproduction as blood would be flowing around the brain rather than the sexual genitalia
    • Feminist movement – challenged sexism
    • Everyday and normalized sexism e.g. wolf whistle, clothing
  • Constructs of Privilege
    • Bodies are defined by a range of binary differences
      • Male and female
      • Intelligence and stupidity
      • Intersectionally; bodies are more than just gender, race, class, sexuality, but all, of these things

Alternative bodies, alternative representation

  • Reshaping the body
    • Body is malleable – can be changed in shape, appearance, physicality
  • Body modification
    • Female body builders, scarification, tightlacing, suspension, bloodletting
    • Modern primitivism – urban subcultures that form tribal affiliations
    • Socially sanctioned self-mutilation?
  • Orlan – Body Beautiful?
    • Went through cosmetic surgery to become different icons through time
    • A form of self-portraiture
  • Deviant Bodies
    • Ways of using abject/disgust to challenge taken for granted assumptions of the body
    • Challenge other binaries we have in society
    • Play on the concepts of the grotesque bodies
    • Still often culturally ridiculed


  • Body is limited by the social, cultural – is that true in all cases?
    • There are still restrictions in place
    • Racism in football
    • Evidence is there to suggest that the social position always controls the way we structure the representation around the bodies
  • In(equality) – do you think it will ever change?
    • No
    • It’s a global world that we have to be aware of – different cultures and historical issues around fixing other peoples oppressions
    • We need to be aware about what is going on globally
  • What is your opinion on the Robin Thicke video?
    • Can’t stand the song
    • We’re actually talking openly about rape culture which isn’t such a bad thing
  • How would we bring about more of these discussions?
    • Sex education
    • Projects that encourage discussions of these issues
    • Website – the sense about sex
    • Young people are very good at talking about these issues as long as we had the right curriculum


PART 1 – (Please not, I am not very good at draing, I never have been and probably never will be! I hope you find these attempts as funny as I did!):

  • Task 1: Draw your subject using one continuous line. The pen should not leave the paper (1 minutes)

Scan 1

  • This enabled the drawer to relax and not feel that the work was as precious as expected
  • Task 2: This time you should draw your subject but not look at the paper, only at the subject (1 minutes)

Scan 4

  • This made both the artists and the sitter feel rather uncomfortable. However, the sitter did not have to keep eye contact and so was allowed to look away, lessening the awkwardness for themselves
  • Task 3: Concentrate only on light and shadows. You are no longer looking at the hair, skin or edges, just the light (1 minutes)

Scan 5

  • This could still be classed as an authentic portrait. The lighting shades tend to create the features themselves, making it a realistic observation and portrait
  • Task 4: This time concentrate only on weight. Look at where the body rests on itself or on the chair (1 minutes)

Scan 2

  • I don’t think that this could represent an authentic portrait as, although weight can be seen within images, it is not a major physical factor that will alter the image itself (unless desired)
  • Task 5: Use only shapes to draw your subject. They can be what you like – squares, circles, triangles, oblongs, etc.


  • I used individual shapes for certain aspects of this portrait due to the simplistic shape that the feature represents. E.g. face is round, nose is oblong, etc.
  • Task 6: Sitters should pose for 3 minutes. Artists simply have to look at them. After the three minutes, the sitter removes themselves from the room and then you may begin drawing from memory – sitter has to look directly at the artist during the posing time


  • This made it incredibly awkward for both the sitter and artist as you we were both aware that I was gazing upon the body of my sitter 


  • In pairs, using a camera phone and available light, create a portraits within the boundaries of the Ellen Terry and Graham Sutherland buildings

Picbod Coffeebreak

Put lighting photo on Twitter – “@BryonyJohnson17 #picbod #coffeebreak”


  • Codes and conventions
    • Of a way of making images
    • E.g. Instagram and MySpace
    • Choice and representation
      • Why are we doing it?
      • Are we consciously or unconsciously uploading these photos for a reason?
      • They are all considered
    • Can represent a person with an object – they are self-portraits
    • Can often begin to understand more from images of objects that represent a person rather than having the human subject within the portrait
    • Jem SouthamPainters Pool”
      • Could this be a self-portrait?
      • Yes – it can show his lifestyle, his history

Jem Southam “Painters Pool”

  • Oscar Wilde “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter”
  • Phillip Gefter “As satisfying as it is to discover what Sarah Bernhardt looked like, or Charles Darwin or Coco Chanel, the conundrum we are left to ponder about the nature of portraiture is whether the portrait is one of the subject, or in fact a portrait of the photographer.” 

The Self-Portrait as a:


  • Nikki S. Lee
    • Infiltrating representations
    • She is understanding the codes and conventions of the group, allowing her to mimic them
    • She’s referencing different societies
    • “It’s about me. The question is about me, but to show me with the other people in the project becomes very much significant. The identity question of myself requires me to look at the relationships with myself and other people”

Nikki S. Lee 2

Nikki S. Lee

  • Bernd and Hilla Becher
    • We have to have the reference
    • Contextualising our work – we should be able to see our work as a much larger network

Bernd and Hilla Becher

  • Trish MorrisseyFront”
    • Imposter style photography
    • She has approached the group, asked a female within the group to come out of the group, swap clothing with Trish, and actually get’s this individual female to take the photography

Trish Morrisey “Front” 2

Trish Morrissey's beach shot


  • Noah KalinaEveryday
    • Given more context about who he is by the background and lighting change
    • More personal and relatable
    • More of a narrative – there is a rhythm and flow that represents his life
    • We have more distractions
  • Ahree Lee “Me”
    • Blank background enhances how her individual look and style changes and how she ages
    • Is much more scientific
  • Lucas SamarasPhoto Transformations
    • He takes the images on film then manipulates them with physical aspects such as fire and acid

Lucas Samaras “Photo Transformations”

  • Phil KirkTsewang”
    • The body can act as a documentation
    • E.g. scars

Phil Kirk “Tsewang”


  • Photography includes the viewer, subject and photographer
  • In self-portraits, the subject and the photographer merge
    • Tension is still there, may want to part with the photographer role
  • Lucien Freud The difficulties of painting yourself are psychological, you have got to try and paint yourself as someone else”


  • Pre-visualize and produce a self-portrait (using only available light*) unrestricted in theme and technique yet still supplying a message to the viewer. You should spend time first understanding what it is you wish you convey before then looking at the composition and mechanics of the image and finally production
    • *While you are required to use only available light, you can still shape and adjust this light as you see fit