Last week, the assignment for my class was to do a self-portrait that was not a literal self-portrait. For me, this wasn’t a particularly challenging assignment, for the most part, because I think any intentional photograph has an element of biography, in the sense that the thing in the photo was something that struck me enough to press the shutter. The key is that it is intentional, though. There has to be some minimum of conscious choice, beyond the attempt to learn a new technique or photos taken for commercial or pre-ordained uses, which limit the element of photographer choice, or just random snapping.
So, while I was wandering the beach in Mexico, I saw a couple of these dead puffer fish. They all looked the same: dry and bleached-out and emptied from the belly. When I made this photo, I didn’t yet know that I would have the self-portrait assignment, and, indeed, I was still looking for the photo for that week (see the previous post). Nevertheless, there was something in this dried out carcass that spoke to me.
Explicating the meaning of this dead fish is a bit more difficult. First of all, it only represents some part of me, and a deeply inner aspect, at that. Even people who know me probably don’t suspect that there are all those now-useless and prickly defense mechanisms lurking below the surface, still actively interfering with making progress. And a few people do know why I feel all hollowed out, from having an essential piece removed. Then, there is my deep skepticism and cynicism that have been stoked over the past year from political events. All of which goes to show why something this disturbing would attract my eye.
Finally, I’m reaching a point with photography that my vision, to use David Duchemin’s term, is beginning to emerge and I feel less and less interest in making standard types of photos. The themes and approach that I want to explore are becoming clearer to me. The problem is that all those out-dated defense mechanism are getting in the way and it’s infinitely frustrating to me on a daily basis; which also doesn’t help the sour mood I often find myself in.
Now, the assignment is to make a three-image series with this as one element …