© 2016 Alice Mahon

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A little about identity.x

May 13, 2018

I thought I might share another couple of pieces from my college days, these were created circa 1990. I've always felt they taught me an awful lot about capturing someone's identity in photographs, I hope you find my experience illuminating.x

The first was made in response to a 'portraiture' brief. I responded with this image of my classmate, Zoe; at once a young woman exploring the world as she came of age, and since she'd studied art to A-Level someone who was more sophisticated in aesthetic approaches than I was. 

How could I show these two elements of her character in a single photograph? My solution was to create a collage, hopefully depicting these two sides to her personality and telling her story in a truer way than a single image could. Two paths to the two parts of her personality that I knew.

 

This second image was created for a 'studio' brief, and was in fact an experimental piece. I was interested to see how the mask would alter this woman's projection of her 'self' to the camera. I'd asked her to arrive at the studio dressed in her normal way and set up my camera so that I wasn't in her eyeline. After 15 minutes to acclimatise to the studio, for each shot, she would tap her foot as the signal that she was ready to be photographed; projecting her own image into the lens. I then fired the camera remotely so, in a way, she was taking the picture herself. There were three shots taken of all four poses but I selected the first one of each sequence.

Although the results were somewhat as expected I was struck by what a significant change the wearing of the mask had made to her posture and confidence. I would argue that that mask could just as easily have been an outfit, or make up, or possibly even context.

As an adjunct, some years later when my second wife was my main model I shot her a lot in my fetish fashion career. She was great at that, and always exuded the confidence and mood I needed for the photographs. I'd occasionally shoot her actress headshots but this was always problematic. In discussing this she told me that when she was modelling the fetish clothes she adopted a character, and 'became' that person. Whereas in her 'portraits' she was depicting herself and became much more self-conscious and nervous.

 

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