Project 1: Autobiographical Self-Portraiture

Having explored the use of self-portraiture in the work of Francesca Woodman, Elina Brotherus and Gillian Wearing, this exercise asks that I reflect on their work by answering a number of questions. My research of the above mentioned photographers can be viewed in the form of the following blog post.

How do these images make you feel?

I really like Francesca Woodman’s images. They seem playful and I can imagine the enjoyment she must have had making them. Through my research, I discovered that Woodman was very positive and enthusiastic when it came to her work, and so I no longer see her images as an insight into a disturbed mind as is sometimes the view.

In the case of Elina Brotherus’s poignant series, Annunciation, I cant help but feel sympathy for her plight. She invested five years of her life in IVF treatment, to no avail. Throughout that time and indeed afterwards, she endured the constant roller-coaster of hope and disappointment, as the cycle of treatment and pregnancy test failures continued.

I feel no affinity toward the series, Album (2003), by Gillian Wearing. I feel that for the amount of time and money invested in creating the images, the outcome and issues raised were mediocre, at best.

Do you think there are elements of narcissism or self-indulgence in focusing on your own identity in this way?

I don’t feel that self-indulgent or narcissistic tendencies are a given in the case of self-portraiture. Judging individual work and the motivation behind the work is the only way I believe that one can make such aspersions of an individual photographer. There are a whole plethora of reasons why someone would focus on their own identity for the creation of art. Elina Brotherus found consolation though her self-portrait work.Simple logistics is probably a leading reason for any artist to select self portraiture as a genre – the artist is available and accessable.

What’s the significance of Brotherus’s nakedness?

I feel that Brotherus is using her naked body to reveal her own vulnerability. In creating Annunciation, Elina Brotherus wishes for the series to be read universally and transcend her own personal experience, highlighting an issue that affects a huge number of women, revealing the fragility of the human body, mind and spirit.

Can such images ‘work’ for an outsider without accompanying text?

Gillian Wearing’s Album (2003) is the only series explored here where text is necessary for the intended meaning to be understood. While text may help explain a little more clearly the meaning behind Elina Brotherus’s Annunciation, a good level of insight can be gained from a thorough look at the images themselves. She has included very deliberate clues such as the pregnancy tests and other medical paraphernalia, as well as her often very melancholic posture. Francesca Woodman’s images stand to be read on their own without any necessity for additional text.

Do you think that these artists are also addressing wider issues beyond the purely personal?

I believe all three of the photographers are addressing wider issues beyond their own personal ones. Through her own person experience, Elina Brotherus is very obviously highlighting a relatively unknown issue and giving ‘visibility to those whose treatment leads nowhere. The hopeless story with an unhappy end is the story of the majority’. Francesca Woodman is a feminist, although not a hardliner. She explores the human body and gender representation, occasionally with a sense of humour. Gillian Wearing, although using herself, explores wider issues of relationships, belonging and identity through her series, Album (2003). 


Bright, S. (2010) Auto Focus: the Self Portrait in Contemporary Photography, London: Thames and Hudson.

Brotherus, E. (2015) Elina Brotherus [online], available: [accessed: 4 Sept 2015].

Brotherus, E. (2013) ‘Elina Brotherus – Annunciation’, Slash/Paris [online], available: [accessed 4 Sept 2015].

Cooke, R. (2014) ‘Searching for the real Francesca Woodman’, The Guardian, 31 Aug, available: [accesed 2 Sept 2015].

Guggenheim Museum (2012) ‘Through the Lens of Francesca Woodman’, Art in the 1070’s

, available: [accessed 2 Sept 2015].

Kaili, J. (2002) ‘The enchantment of Reality ‘, Decisive Days, available: [accessed 4 Sept 2015].

Louisiana Channel (2013) ‘Elina Brotherus: The Human Perspective’

, available: [accessed 4 Sept 2015].

Maureen Paley Gallery (2015) Gillian Wearing [online], available: [accessed 5 Sept 2015].

Sooke, A. (2012) ‘Gillian Wearing: Everyone’s got a secret’, The Telegraph, 28 Mar, available: [accessed 5 Sept 2015].

Tate (2015) Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 [online], available: [accessed 2 Sept 2015].

Tate (2015) Gillian Wearing [online], available: [accessed 5 Sept 2015].

Wearing, G. (2012) ‘Gillian Wearing Takeover:Behind the mask-the Self-Portraits’, The Guardian, 27 Mar, available: [accessed 5 Sept 2015].

Willis C.S. (2010) The Woodmans [dvd], New York: Lorber Films.

Yeh, D. (2003) ‘Painting by Camerawork’, [online], available: [accessed 4 Sept 2015].


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