Exercise 3.2 – Masquerades – (P.80)

Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?

The Hiphop Project (1) (2000) © Nikki S. Lee

In her Projects series Lee decided to explore identity by transforming herself into different characters and then photographing herself in character with people whose appearance she was replicating. I do not think that Lee’s work is exploitative or voyeuristic as by putting herself in the image she is not photographing groups from the outside but is instead engaging with the other subjects in the images. In the photographs with Lee in character as a skateboarder, swing dancer and an exotic dancer, Lee spend time learning how to skateboard and dance and she spent three months working with a personal trainer to lose weight and improve her muscle tone for her project as an exotic dancer. I think this commitment from Lee demonstrates that she was interested in getting to know and understand these identities rather rather than just mimicking or exploiting them.

I think Lee is commenting on her own identity. In the Creators Project video below, Lee talks about her work including Projects. In a segment between 5.53 and 6.12 minutes Lee talks about her work stating:

The work I do always needs to involve others, and that’s mainly because of my views about my own identity. I realise I couldn’t understand who I am without the people around me. I believe that it is only through my relationships with others that I can see myself.

Nikki S. Lee

Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day on the beach with your family? If not, why not?

I would like to think that if some strange Irish woman came up to me on a beach and asked if she could dress her self up as my wife and take a photograph I would be open-minded enough to say yes, however, I think the likelihood is that I would decline. Although as a man I recognise the impact on me would be minimal, I think I would struggle to encourage my wife to agree to such a request if she was not initially willing.

Suprisingly, when I asked my wife if she would participate she said that she would as long as she understood the context and did not feel that the idea was demeaning or belittling.

Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven Years and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

The Failed Realist is a series of images produced by Trish Morrissey in conjunction with her daughter when her daughter was aged four and five. The work is based on a theory developed by the psychologist Georges-Henri Luque, which he titled The Failed Realist, that looks at the period in a child’s development when their visual ability to express themselves lags behind their verbal ability due to their lack of motor and cognative skills.

Ladybird, 2011 © Trish Morrissey

When looking at this work the phrase ‘hell is other people’s children’ came to mind. The work leaves me cold in the same way that your own children’s drawings at that age are interesting but other people’s childrens’ are not. On her website Morrissey states ‘Beyond the innocence of the child’s intention, more sinister themes such as clowns, carnival and the grotesque are evoked by these mask like paintings.’ however, I did not make those associations and felt the work was very personal to Morrissey and question how well it translates to a wider audience.

The title of Morrissey’s work Seven Years is based on the age difference between Morrissey and her older sister and the images are reconstructions of fictional family photographs from the 1970s and 80s using period clothing and props.

August 8th, 1982 © Trish Morrissey

According to Morrissey’s website the work

… aims to deconstruct the trope of family photography by meticulously mimicking it.

…Morrissey functions as director, author and actor, staging herself and her sibling in tightly controlled, fictional mis en scene…

The resulting photographs isolate telling moments in which the unconscious leaks out from behind the façade of the face and into the minute gestures of the body.

I feel this work fails on its own terms as on one hand we are told the unconscious leaks out from behind a facade, however, the work is also described as staged and tightly controlled. As a result of this contradiction I find the work flawed and, for all the detail put in to the staging, I fail to see the point of it. I think the premise could have been more effectively explored using found photographs from the ’70s and’80s rather then trying to recreate images with this period detail and feel.

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