Exercise 3.4 – Self-absented portraiture – (P.87)

Go to the artist’s website and look at the other images in Shafran’s series. You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

© Nigel Shafran

Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

I am not suprised that these images were taken by a man, I’m more suprised in the implicit suggestion in the question that as the image represents a domestic chore, the implication is that it would be photographed by a woman as it is ‘woman’s work’! As someone who is capable of doing the washing-up, and who because of a faulty dishwasher has had more than enough opportunity to do so, I do not see that washing-up is something that is gender specific and consequently did not consider that photographs of washing-up would be more likely to be taken by either gender.

In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I think gender does contribute to the creation of a photographer’s image but only in a very general sense. Gender along with race, nationality, upbringing etc. contribute to the development of an individual and help inform their view of the world so in that sense gender does play a role. However, I do not think that it is possible to look at an image or collection of images and discern the gender of the photographer just by looking at the subject and the style of the of the photograph.

What does this series achieve by not including people?

I think that the abscence of a person in the image encourages the viewer to look and to analyse the scenes and consquently we are able to ascertain information that may not be as evident if a person was present in the image. From the images we can discern that the individual is meticulous and organised and that they like a drink as evidenced by the empty wine bottles and beer cans that appear to have been washed prior to recycling. The placement of the yellow washing-up gloves in many of the images indicates someone who likes routine and order, and the presence of pots and pans in many of the images implies that the individual enjoys cooking, not just re-heating pre-prepared meals. I think if an individual had been present in the scenes these sorts of details would have been easy to overlook, partly because of the natural tendency to focus on a person in an image and partly due to the presence of a figure obscruing detail within the frame.

Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

I do not regard the images as interesting still life images I think they could best be described as mundane or possibly even dull! However, the concept of using pictures of everyday events when combined with text to enable the viewer to look at the images in context is much more interesting that the images by themselves. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the series with the captions included so the images remain somewhat mundane.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.