The visual work I produced during my research includes a number of issues dealt with in the text: self-portraiture’s connotations and unconscious associations, photography’s narrativity proceeding through different strategies of image construction, and photography’s indexicality, the meaning of codes and projection. It also embodies the complexities of the intersubjective relationship between author and viewer, embodies the role of photography’s authority consciousness often found in photographic self-portraiture (the double, masquerade, and acting out), and embraces narcissism both referentially and as involved in creating a fictional universe. Each image includes a few more considerations related to materiality, familiar/new codes, and different traditions and references. These elements are intended to challenge first impressions and overcome the otherwise immediate progression to conventional readings and definite narratives; they are also crucial in terms of activating the metaphor of narcissism and the images’ polysemous spaces to compensate for one-sided consciousness.
The images and ideas contained in this exposition derive from my scepticism about interpretations of photographic self-portraiture that seem unrealistically straightforward and raise the question of its current role and the validity of its associated concepts. The research suggests that self-portraits are necessarily fictitious: they cannot aim at absolute narcissism but at the codification and narrativisation of our primitive fears and urge to secure control. Nevertheless, within the framework of symbolic sensuality, photography’s criticality still lies in its complex relationship to construction/authenticity and connotations/viewers’ psychological engagement. If narcissism lies behind schemes of wholeness and noematic voids, there is always an infinite potential in exercising the imaginative capacity of artists for representing such abstractions and of viewers to overcoming threats from the images’ uncertainty. Likewise, photographic self-portraiture still provides potentialities for indulgent pleasures (for artists and viewers).
The visual work I have produced constitutes a personal take on narcissism and narrativity in photographic self-portraiture, deriving from my attraction to photography’s and photographic self-portraiture’s two-way pull (desire and/or aversion to immediacy) and the need to discover a subtle space in representation. Nevertheless, the procedure of creating the images and the images themselves (as a condensed compilation of ideas) can operate as an alternative proposition to photography’s criticality. If the images are over-structured and preoccupied with codes and references to invite narrativisation, they ultimately refrain from conclusions and definite narratives; yet, this wavering can also be seen as part of the tendency to channel the signifiers into negotiations between personal and collective, fictive and actual sociocultural realities. The images resist tendencies to stereotype narcissistic expressions, as well as imposed meanings and the loss of ambiguity in relation to the image’s aim.
Opening up the meaning of a sign, or making the viewer acknowledge the polysemy of the image, is a self-conscious operation, as an understanding brought about by approaching narcissism as a sense-making scenario or system for understanding narratives and narrativity. This is, necessarily, narcissism from a position of difference. In my images this idea does not point to an alteration or dissociation from narcissism (its neutralisation, understanding as an illusion, or schemes of wholeness to comment on a cultural syndrome of ‘lack of idealisation’, or the inability to receive regressive pleasure from it). My images do not intend to challenge or subvert photographic self-portraiture; on the contrary, they submit to photography’s and self-portraiture’s connotations, inherent characteristics, and convoluted functions. Even though this understanding of narcissism validates language, it does not necessarily negate projection or eradicate the process through which such readings are possible. In fact, I suggest that an understanding of narcissism allows the development of strategies that do not solely concern self-portraiture. Acknowledging narcissism opens new pathways for contemplating images (by extension, my images) and their projective power.