I have been pondering about the issue of identity for some while now, about how to ‘not’ depict it because of sensitivity issues. The work that I’ve been doing at the ‘Echoes Group’ means that I am engaged with people who have some serious issues all under the umbrella terminology of dementia. Some of these people are integrated into the community whilst others are in-patients at the Warneford hospital. They all come to the sessions to find art based activities to help them become involved with both other people and to engage with activities that might inspire them to feel better about themselves, to communicate, to break the tedium of everyday life.
I’d had the notion to try and find a way to preserve their confidentiality, by not using imagery that portrayed them in any recognisable way, but that had something of them in the picture. My idea before I went on holiday was to use an extreme close up of just a few pixels. In my original concept for the work that did for Gesture and Meaning, I wanted to use film as I felt that by doing so it would add a layer on contextual narrative that would chime with the users of the Group – however I abandoned that idea due to pressure from my tutor to complete the assignment – I did and the feedback was ok. However I did take some film and from one of the scans I produced a deep close up. The version here is one that I have worked on after thinking about things for a while. It is clear that there can be no clue as to who the subject is. It is a scan of fuji 1600 black and white film, scanned at 4800 dpi cropped, enlarged to 40 cm wide, with little or no post processing done. I wondered about whether the monochrome abstraction was warranted, and whether it was a step too far.
During my recent trip to Cuba I wanted to visit the “Museo de la Revolucion” in Havana and saw a very large print of the face of Fidel Castro. The image above is a close up, but not cropped, photograph of the face of Fidel. I think because I have provided his name that viewer’s would be able to recognise the image, but I suspect that for millions of Cubans there would be no need for a titular complement. A half tone image that carries with all sorts of connotations, even I suspect at this level of abstraction, so I became wary that I needed to provide a greater distance between anything remotely recognisable and anything I use to depict these users of the group. However Castro’s image did raise some questions in my mind about identity, and inspired me to think about how I might include actuality if I were to want to depict these people again.
These images are all the same size; cropped to be 24 pixels X 42 pixels and then resized to become 40 cm on the longest side to be equivalent to the orginal monochrome film version of Liz’s hand. I’m not sure where this is going! I had considered editing out the user’s faces and implanting, so to speak, an elemental depiction of them as their face – or face and body; I haven’t decided if I’ll go there just at the moment. Or, whether I just use these images as a document/portrait of the users. It might be that I abandon this as a way of subverting the critical need for confidentiality and to detect their presence by their absence in images. Not sure yet, but something to think about…………