Identity and Representation

Leica M9 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M series lens. Exposure Details: 1/15 second @ f5.7 ISO 800.

I've only ever photographed myself on several occasions. This particular pic was made just outside the lift in a boutique hotel in Beijing, China. It's just a bit of fun in the early stages of familiarising myself with my new Leica M9 camera.

As I was inside in the evening the lighting was a pretty ordinary mix of artificial light sources. A black-and-white rendering seemed like the best way to neutralise this range of colors and draw attention back to the subject: me.

The reason for making the photo was to explore reflections and the notion of representation. How much of the person we present to the world is true to who we really are? Reflections are, by their very nature, a distortion of reality. We do not look like our image in the mirror, with its reversed viewpoint. And how much of our inner self is actually evident through our outward appearance?

Its common for a photographer to portray themselves with a camera and expensive (the bigger the better, hey guys) lens attached. But, if I was a potential customer, I'd assume you'd have good camera equipment. It's a given! So why do it? Perhaps it's the unfortunate association photography has with equipment. Perhaps the equipment is used by the photographer as a kind of shield or mask by which to hide themselves, at least in part, from the world.

An excellent wildlife photographer and a great guy, Martin Bailey, who I've recently come into contact with has a website featuring a portrait of himself. It's an extremely well made studio photograph featuring Martin with some really nice Canon gear. Now, to my mind, this image is a bit of an exception. Its very well crafted, which I can appreciate, and the lens in question is one I'd very much like in my own kit. (Those comments only illustrate that judgement is a very subjective concept. In addition this rather specialised telephoto lens identifies Martin as a serious wildlife photographer and, as such, is specific compared to the more generic here's wally with his camera pic common to most photographers websites.

As far as your own internet identity (website, blog, Facebook, etc) is concerned it might be worthwhile examining how you choose to portray yourself? Photography, like any other passion, can bring its fair share of hardship as well as joy, as much frustration as elation.

So what's your connection with photography? What about it do you find attractive or compelling and how does it fire your imagination and creativity? If it's a love of the natural world, perhaps a pic of you in a beautiful outdoor location would be a better option. It's OK to include your camera in the photo, but try not to make it a dominant or competing element. If it's a business then what is the reason you have entered into your business? If the answer is to provide your family with a better life then, perhaps, you could include a pic of you having fun with your family. This should also re-enforce, in your own mind, why photography is such a large part of your life. Ultimately, do you want to be identified with your equipment or with the reason/s you do what you do?

I'd be very interested in your comments regarding this topic. Please take a moment to contribute to this discussion.        

© Copyright All Rights Reserved
Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru