Elisavet Kalpaxi


Self-portraiture: on photography’s reflexive surface

ἡ γὰρ πρὰν ἐς πόντον ἐσέβλεπον, (ἡς δὲ γαλάνα)

καὶ καλὰ μὲν τὰ γένεια, καλὰ δ’ ἐμὶν ἁ μὶα κὼρα

(ὡς παρ’ ἐμιν κέκριται) καταφαίνετο· τῶν δέ τ’ ὀδόντων

λευκοτέραν αὐγαν Παρίας ὑπέφαινε λίθοιο.

ὠς μὴ βασκανθῶ δέ, τρὶς εἰς ἐμὸν ἔπτυσα κόλπον1.

(Theocritus, third century BC [1869: 26])

Nobody – that’s my name. Nobody – 

(Homer, third century BC [1997: 223])


This exposition presents a practice-based research project, developed between 2007 and 2012, which aims to establish a better understanding between self-portraiture, narcissism, and narrativity in individual photographic images and in photography overall. The research was inspired by a concern with photographic self-portraiture and directorial and narrative images, which were already a strand of my art practice when the project begun. The study consists of parallel explorations of theory and practical concerns that are displayed side by side, mirroring each other. The theoretical exploration consists of a comparative analysis of the concepts of narcissism, narrativity, indexicality, self-consciousness, and viewers’ involvement, through studies that bring these concepts to centre stage; meanwhile, the practice addresses these concepts in visual terms, through the use of visual codes, devices, and vocabularies that aim to instigate the narcissistic metaphor and give it a useful role in the construction of a fictional universe. All aspects of the project – theoretical exploration, concerns related to my practice, and the work itself – can be seen as a narcissistic undertaking; thus, the exposition employs a first person perspective. The exploration is presented in chronological order, starting with the concerns that influenced the instigation of my research back in 2007.


The View inside the Mirror, 2008, silver-print, 60 × 60 cm.

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