“Your first and last assignment of the year will be a self-portrait, in which you may, or may not, appear.” My first photography professor seemed pleased with himself upon this proclamation. To an eighteen-year-old kid it seemed daunting. At that age I had no idea of self and wasn’t very good at portrait. Intimidated, I persevered and ended up, more-or-less, fulfilling the assignment. It was my first attempt at self-portrait, yet hardly the last.
Of course, now, I’d smugly tell said professor that oneself is in all of one’s work, not just the intentional self-portraits. It would actually be harder not to create a self-portrait than to do so. That pesky self sneaks into just about everything. To signify this, particularly when I am in a playful mood, I tend to include shadows of myself in many photographic images. There is some kind of romantic notion I have that the shadowy artist lurks behind the scenes, leaving behind ephemeral traces of his presence and consciousness.
I suspect this is a construct of an overactive imagination. Yet, I’ve seen my cats find fascination with their shadow so I can’t be all wrong. There must be something universal in this. Shadows have a way of proving to us our material and perhaps even metaphysical presence sans mirror or other reflective surface. The shadow is much more intriguing than a reflection. It is easily distorted and dramatically moves along all surfaces, being affected and transformed by each and every one. Shadows are operatic.
I find today’s image to be particularly revealing as self-portrait. The lurking me encounters shuttered windows on a cold Venetian morning. I have no idea what that means exactly but I like the concept. I think my old professor would be pleased.