Self Hatred – Self Love
Disclaimer: This article covers sensitive subjects, including a photograph of the act of self harm, which may not be suitable for certain audiences.
The theme of self-hatred and self-love felt like a natural progression from exercise 4.12 Presence/Absence (here). Self-hatred was a prominent aspect of my life for many years. With lots of practice and the development of new skills, self-love and self-care have become important actions in my life.
My initial plan was to create three photos which represent self-hatred and a further three for self-love, and to display them on opposing sides of a cube, as if they were a dice. Often it has felt like pot luck as to how I feel about myself.
My initial idea developed after speaking with a friend, and I opted to use a Rubik’s Cube. The self is not dualistic, different traits are apparent sometimes, and we can have many elements present at the same time. Using a Rubik’s Cube, and moving the images so that they mix with each other, would highlight the spectrum of love and hate. Moving the cube would provide a dynamic interaction between the photos and the representation of self-harm and self-care. Sticking the photos to the cube was almost impossible with super glue and PVA, which made the Rubik’s Cube unworkable. Because of this I stuck with the original cube idea. Presenting the photos in grid format (above), with space around each photo, was an idea developed because of the feedback of OCA photography student Andrew (Andy’s Blog). I have been able to move towards self-care and love by allowing my self-hatred to be surrounded by the love of the universe. Allowing it to exist in the vastness of space has meant it can be loved and nurtured.
Although my assignments are presented on-line, I wanted to feel and interact with my photos. Too often they are left on my hard drive, and I want more than that with my photography. Art is nebulous, sometimes flowing and at others grating. I want my art to be more than a visual and mental act.
I also wanted to over-sew two photo’s in the style of Gerhard Richter’s over-painting. Mixed media art has become important to me, and I am eager to experiment.
I’m quite disgusted with the photo of myself. I struggle to look at any image of myself, so I chose the worst photo and with poor image quality, and I then stitched over the top. It’s a tricky process and overall I’m not impressed with the results, but I do like the lips, and the white dots from where each stitch manipulated the photo paper. The needlework looks like medical stitches, and I’ve previously had many self-inflicted injuries sewn up in A and E, the correlation worked well. However, over-sewing a photo was awkward. If stitches were too close the paper would tear, which meant I couldn’t produce the fine work that I wanted to produce. I chose not to apply this technique to a second photo because it’s too cumbersome. However, I am going to practice this in future. There is a saying that shame is about who I am, guilt is about who I am. The colours of the over stitching are about shame and guilt. The guilt is represented by red thread, I’m a guilty sinner who requires a blood sacrifice for salvation. The purple and black represent shame. They are dark colours, heavy, dreary and dirty.
I chose to create the photo of the cross with blood because it has religious symbolism, which reflects the shame I have experienced just for existing. The shame that springs from my childhood experiences was exacerbated by the religious upbringing I had. I could never live up to the expectations of those in religious power, nor of the scriptures. Apparently I am a sinner, and not only are my actions sinful, but so are my thoughts. I’ve paid for my sin’s in blood.
Self-harming has not been an easy or enjoyable behaviour for this assignment. But as it was a daily behaviour for many years I felt it was a justifiable action to take even though I hadn’t self harmed in over two years. I used to cut derogatory words into my legs, and I chose the words “fat cunt” because there are times that I internally call myself this. It’s hard having an eating disorder, and it’s correlation with body-dismorphia it’s obvious within me. However painful these thoughts are, I am proud of the changes that I am currently making. I often find I am in a place of nurturing myself in response to a cruel inner monologue. On the whole the self harming for this assignment has been a positive experience. It has affirmed that I’m no longer in a place of self-hatred, and I was able to naturally practice self-care for a couple of days afterwards.
Producing photography that involved the act, and results of self harm is pushing the boundaries of what is graphically acceptable. Because of this I have posted trigger warnings on my blog a few hours prior to posting any images. The truth is self-harm is a part of my history, and I am a visual artist who uses photography to explore and express myself. Personally I believe that my photography has been authentic, as tasteful as possible for the content, and I have presented it within an appropriate context.
My self-love photo’s included macro photography, the side of my bath, and a card that I wrote to myself. Macro photography is pure enjoyment and a spiritual connection for me. My bath has many fossils, rocks and minerals, and I always have a multitude of shower gels. Having difficulties with body image has made it necessary to have a safe bathing space. I regularly write myself texts telling me that I love myself.
Love is not a feeling, it’s an action, and I need to practice loving kindness towards myself on a daily basis. I cannot afford to wait until I feel better about myself in order to take affirmative action. I have to act my way into feeling better about myself.
The lighting was a combination of daylight and incandescent. I opted for the ambience provided by natural daylight, and I didn’t feel that it was necessary to use flash or additional light sources for this assignment. However, I changed the white balance on the photos of the bath and the card to add some warmth.
My execution of this assignment has, at times, been emotionally challenging and also rewarding. I feel excited about the use of the cube and the over-sewing. It’s wonderful to push myself, to learn new techniques and experiment, and to play with physical photos.
The biggest joy has been the realisation that I love myself, I may not like how I look, but hey, progress is progress.
Photography is so much fun, and it has helped me to take care of myself, to connect with Goddess, and it has improved how I feel about myself. It’s hard to convey the extent of how photography has changed my life.
The Individual Photos
The contact sheets can be seen here
Rubik’s Cube Update
Following feedback from OCA Foundations in Photography student Jonathan Kiernan (here), I made a second attempt with the Rubik’s Cube. This time I cut the photos into cubes prior to sticking them onto the cube, and tried to stick them into place by using double-sided tape. This technique was better, however, cutting the tape was a nightmare as the tape kept sticking to the scissors. Making use of a five by five cube meant the photos were divided two small to be neat, and didn’t provide a large enough surface area for the tape to stick the photo’s. The solution would be to use a larger Rubik’s Cube which is also only three by three. I think the best technique to glue the photo’s to the cube would be to use PVA on the cube and photo as a surface primer, and then to make use of super glue as the adhesive.
I always welcome constructive feedback and critique. Please feel free to comment and explain either what you like or don’t like, and why.