Domestic Photography, female representation and self-portraiture

This paper interrogates the fluidity of identity based upon influential writings by Gen Doy, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall and David Bailey. These academics draw upon psychoanalytical frameworks to suggest that identity is situationally contingent and therefore progressive in nature. Accordingly, domestic photography and the critical influence it can have on the perception of self was explored. Although family photographs are thought to be a credible source to reflect upon past identities, their fabrication is profound. Direct focus was placed on the disciplinary power exercised by the photographic institution and societal pressures surrounding the idealistic family structure, which form inaccurate identity depictions of the sitter. Although both males and females experience the repercussions of this issue, attention will be centred towards women as it is argued that there are significant absences in their historical record. Consequently, the family album appears to be one of the most accessible and reliable sources to locate concrete symbols of the self, which are then internalised into the essence of the female viewer.

The focus on women continues throughout the paper to examine the ways in which female photographers use self-portraits to reclaim this fragmented identity. Self-portraiture projects created by photographers Jo Spence, Dita Pepe and Gillian Wearing detail the therapeutic tendencies of defining the self through the photographic medium. The processes of re-enacting, re-imaging and re-constructing oneself gives insight into mediated, fabricated and projective identity formation within pre-existing autobiographical imagery. In this sense, the self-portraiture process can communicate beyond its creator to universally articulate how the female identity is formulated in vernacular photography.

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