Why are self-portraits so powerful? I suspect there are many answers to that question, but here is one answer that I have recently been thinking about.
I’m reading the first essay in John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing. It’s a very interesting piece that it’s going to take me a while to digest, chock full as it is of philosophical questions such as the relationship between what we see and what we know, between seeing and language and between what we look at and ourselves.
Specifically, Berger makes the point that the act of seeing is something we choose to do, and moreover that the act of seeing is reciprocal – if I see you, you can see me. Thus when we turn the camera on ourselves, we put our self on both sides of the very intimate relationship that seeing is, and become both the viewer and the sight.
An image, Berger goes on to say, is ‘a sight which has been recreated or reproduced’, So when we put our self portraits out there, we display the result of the act of seeing our selves, and we are in complete control over it. This is a simple conclusion, but it is equally a powerful explanation for why a self portrait often will be truer to the person depicted than a portrait, where someone else chooses how to see you.
I’ve been browsing the flickr pools for selfies, and I want to tell you that we Muses see you, and we see that you are beautiful.
~All the best from Jenny.