Michele MelcherThe UnSelfie Project
No, that’s not me, it’s illustrator Michele Melcher holding a portrait of herself as an example of what she’ll be doing in her Kickstarter project, The UnSelfie Project. Of course I backed it, so in a few months (she’s aiming for September) I’ll have a drawing of myself by Michele. The project has already passed double the original goal, though, so it may take her a while to make all those drawings! There are 22 days to go if you want to get in on the action.
I’m not sure why she’s calling it an “unselfie” project since they aren’t self portraits (except her own drawing of herself), but I’m happy to see portraiture get some thoughtful love and attention. Her portraits range all the way from black and white to detailed watercolors, and include fun options like zombie portraits, too. My favorites are the simple color portraits, so that’s what I’ve chosen.
I like the picture above of her holding her portrait — the beginnings of a Droste effect image. If only the illustration were a drawing of her holding a photo of herself holding an illustration of herself…
I know things have been slow around here, but there are a lot of irons in the fire. More soon! 

Michele Melcher
The UnSelfie Project

No, that’s not me, it’s illustrator Michele Melcher holding a portrait of herself as an example of what she’ll be doing in her Kickstarter project, The UnSelfie Project. Of course I backed it, so in a few months (she’s aiming for September) I’ll have a drawing of myself by Michele. The project has already passed double the original goal, though, so it may take her a while to make all those drawings! There are 22 days to go if you want to get in on the action.

I’m not sure why she’s calling it an “unselfie” project since they aren’t self portraits (except her own drawing of herself), but I’m happy to see portraiture get some thoughtful love and attention. Her portraits range all the way from black and white to detailed watercolors, and include fun options like zombie portraits, too. My favorites are the simple color portraits, so that’s what I’ve chosen.

I like the picture above of her holding her portrait — the beginnings of a Droste effect image. If only the illustration were a drawing of her holding a photo of herself holding an illustration of herself…

I know things have been slow around here, but there are a lot of irons in the fire. More soon! 

Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of PortraitureZimmerli Art MuseumRutgers University
Just like in Amélie, there are hundreds of photo booth photos of this mystery man. 445 of them are owned by photography historian Donald Lokuta, and are being exhibited for the first time at a show of portraiture at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University called Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of Portraiture. 
Found photos, especially portraits, are complicated artifacts. They are intimate, and once unmoored from their original owners and stories, the intimacy transforms into vulnerability that can be compelling. Beyond the found object aspect, photo booth pictures are a wonderful sub-genre of portraiture, and are in many ways the direct antecedent of selfies. True fact: I have never taken a picture in a photobooth! Perhaps it’s time to rectify that…
The sameness—of both the subject and the photo booth setup—reveals the rhythms of time, mood, and fashion in a way a single photograph cannot, and the volume of photos is intriguing. Is he a photobooth repairman? Or just an aficionado of self-portraits? Is it an art project? Or is there some more complicated story?
The whole Striking Resemblance show and accompanying book are exactly what I’ve been thinking about with this project, so I’ll definitely pay a visit and let you know what I think. The show is up until July 13th, and you can find directions to the museum on their website.
In other portraiture news, I sat for sketches by super artist and friend Jason Mitchell. Can’t wait to see the finished project!

Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of Portraiture
Zimmerli Art Museum
Rutgers University

Just like in Amélie, there are hundreds of photo booth photos of this mystery man. 445 of them are owned by photography historian Donald Lokuta, and are being exhibited for the first time at a show of portraiture at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University called Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of Portraiture

Found photos, especially portraits, are complicated artifacts. They are intimate, and once unmoored from their original owners and stories, the intimacy transforms into vulnerability that can be compelling. Beyond the found object aspect, photo booth pictures are a wonderful sub-genre of portraiture, and are in many ways the direct antecedent of selfies. True fact: I have never taken a picture in a photobooth! Perhaps it’s time to rectify that…

The sameness—of both the subject and the photo booth setup—reveals the rhythms of time, mood, and fashion in a way a single photograph cannot, and the volume of photos is intriguing. Is he a photobooth repairman? Or just an aficionado of self-portraits? Is it an art project? Or is there some more complicated story?

The whole Striking Resemblance show and accompanying book are exactly what I’ve been thinking about with this project, so I’ll definitely pay a visit and let you know what I think. The show is up until July 13th, and you can find directions to the museum on their website.

In other portraiture news, I sat for sketches by super artist and friend Jason Mitchell. Can’t wait to see the finished project!

Detail from full spine x-rayLenox Hill Radiology & Medical Imaging AssociatesAugust, 2012
This is a less traditional portrait, partly because it shows my insides rather than my outsides (though you can see my skin as a shadow), but even more so, I think, because it doesn’t show my full head. (The x-ray continues down to my pelvis, but doesn’t go up past my ears.)
We like to think of our public identities residing in our faces, and our private selves as being centered in the right hemispheres of our brains, but that hasn’t always been the case in different times and cultures. A while ago I read The Most Human Human by Brian Christian, which, although not as well written as I would have liked, is full of interesting ideas about our sense of self, including the fact that this has in various cultures been centered on the heart, the lungs, even the liver.
Like all portraits, this one revealed things to the subject (me) that I couldn’t otherwise have seen about myself. Namely that my spine is somewhat less than straight. It gets worse lower down (it’s a full spine x-ray), but you can see enough here to know that yes, I have scoliosis. That’s about the least of my medical worries at the moment, but it’s still pretty sobering to see it laid out in black and white. 
Overall, though, it’s amazing — poetic, even — to see inside yourself like this. I do wish I could have a brain scan, though it seems unlikely unless my migraines return, and I’d rather they stayed away. Brains seem like the site of the most variation between people, though as I learned when I was reading up on anatomy (a far more interesting subject than I ever guessed), even the number of bones and muscles varies from person to person. That blew my mind — I always assumed anatomy was constant beyond muscles being weaker or stronger, and a broken bone here or there — but in fact we’re all variations on the theme of a human body. 
(A note about the x-ray above: the white line is a seam between separate x-rays — the technician moved the x-ray machine to take four separate pictures while I stood still and this is the top image plus a bit of the second. The LT is to identify the left side of my body, since x-rays on film can be read from either side.)
I’m very excited that several people have contacted me about making portraits for this series. If you, too, are interested in participating in the project by making a portrait in any medium, please get in touch at catasterist at gmail.

Detail from full spine x-ray
Lenox Hill Radiology & Medical Imaging Associates
August, 2012

This is a less traditional portrait, partly because it shows my insides rather than my outsides (though you can see my skin as a shadow), but even more so, I think, because it doesn’t show my full head. (The x-ray continues down to my pelvis, but doesn’t go up past my ears.)

We like to think of our public identities residing in our faces, and our private selves as being centered in the right hemispheres of our brains, but that hasn’t always been the case in different times and cultures. A while ago I read The Most Human Human by Brian Christian, which, although not as well written as I would have liked, is full of interesting ideas about our sense of self, including the fact that this has in various cultures been centered on the heart, the lungs, even the liver.

Like all portraits, this one revealed things to the subject (me) that I couldn’t otherwise have seen about myself. Namely that my spine is somewhat less than straight. It gets worse lower down (it’s a full spine x-ray), but you can see enough here to know that yes, I have scoliosis. That’s about the least of my medical worries at the moment, but it’s still pretty sobering to see it laid out in black and white. 

Overall, though, it’s amazing — poetic, even — to see inside yourself like this. I do wish I could have a brain scan, though it seems unlikely unless my migraines return, and I’d rather they stayed away. Brains seem like the site of the most variation between people, though as I learned when I was reading up on anatomy (a far more interesting subject than I ever guessed), even the number of bones and muscles varies from person to person. That blew my mind — I always assumed anatomy was constant beyond muscles being weaker or stronger, and a broken bone here or there — but in fact we’re all variations on the theme of a human body. 

(A note about the x-ray above: the white line is a seam between separate x-rays — the technician moved the x-ray machine to take four separate pictures while I stood still and this is the top image plus a bit of the second. The LT is to identify the left side of my body, since x-rays on film can be read from either side.)

I’m very excited that several people have contacted me about making portraits for this series. If you, too, are interested in participating in the project by making a portrait in any medium, please get in touch at catasterist at gmail.

I’ve become interested in portraiture lately, the conventions, how we pose, how we read it, and how they’ve all changed. At the same time, I am made deeply uncomfortable by portraits of myself, partly because of the vulnerability that a publicly circulating portrait creates, and partly because I somehow missed the day when everyone else learned to be photogenic. I’m not saying I’m ugly or unattractive or homely, just that almost every photograph of me makes me look that way. I tense up, my hair sticks out awkwardly, shadows fall unflatteringly — something is always off, and my least flattering features become most prominent, while more flattering aspects lose their luster. I devour any advice I can find from photogenic people, but it never seems to help. It’s a skill I just can’t seem to master.
I try to laugh off all the unattractive photos of me, but they inevitably feed my insecurities and blur my sense of self. I know I’m not supposed to care, but I do. So I’m going to set aside my internal protestations of arrogance at undertaking such a self-centered project to prod the bruise that portraits have left and see what I can learn about art in general, about portraiture in particular, and, since a portrait is a tool for seeing how other people see you, about myself.  
  
Above to start things off is a simple silhouette made by taking a phone selfie in front of a bright window, with a quick bit of adjusting in Photoshop to increase the contrast and clean it up a bit. As usual, looking at this portrait, simple though it is, I first see something I wish I could change: the softening angle between my chin and neck. Hello, forties. I also have to confess that I took at least a half a dozen photos before I got one that I was standing up more or less straight, with my head not *too* far forward, as it most often is. I felt like I was nearly bending backwards here. Another thing I notice looking at the photo is that my nose is really pretty pointy. Maybe that’s a function of the side view, which isn’t how we normally see people, or maybe my nose really is particularly pointy. Either way I don’t thing it’s bad, just odd. Silhouettes are pretty forgiving, so overall I’m more comfortable with this than most pictures of myself.
The silhouette portrait has a rich history from its peak in the 18th century to the present. Despite the modern tools I used (iPhone and Photoshop) in place of paper and scissors, it still feels clearly related to that tradition. Add the classic shoulder swoop to the bottom and tighten up the hair a bit, and it would be right at home in a collection from the 19th century.

Ahead here (ahem) will be a mix of self portraits and portraits of myself I commission from others, both in different styles and media, possibly interspersed with a few portraits of others here and there as intermissions. Probably it will be a relatively short project, a few months or a year at most, but we’ll see how things go. Undoubtedly it will be at times intimate, and it will certainly frequently be uncomfortable for me, but perhaps by the end a little less so.
If you’re interested in participating in the project by making a portrait of me in whatever medium you prefer, please get in touch to discuss specifics at catasterist at gmail.

I’ve become interested in portraiture lately, the conventions, how we pose, how we read it, and how they’ve all changed. At the same time, I am made deeply uncomfortable by portraits of myself, partly because of the vulnerability that a publicly circulating portrait creates, and partly because I somehow missed the day when everyone else learned to be photogenic. I’m not saying I’m ugly or unattractive or homely, just that almost every photograph of me makes me look that way. I tense up, my hair sticks out awkwardly, shadows fall unflatteringly — something is always off, and my least flattering features become most prominent, while more flattering aspects lose their luster. I devour any advice I can find from photogenic people, but it never seems to help. It’s a skill I just can’t seem to master.

I try to laugh off all the unattractive photos of me, but they inevitably feed my insecurities and blur my sense of self. I know I’m not supposed to care, but I do. So I’m going to set aside my internal protestations of arrogance at undertaking such a self-centered project to prod the bruise that portraits have left and see what I can learn about art in general, about portraiture in particular, and, since a portrait is a tool for seeing how other people see you, about myself.  

  

Above to start things off is a simple silhouette made by taking a phone selfie in front of a bright window, with a quick bit of adjusting in Photoshop to increase the contrast and clean it up a bit. As usual, looking at this portrait, simple though it is, I first see something I wish I could change: the softening angle between my chin and neck. Hello, forties. I also have to confess that I took at least a half a dozen photos before I got one that I was standing up more or less straight, with my head not *too* far forward, as it most often is. I felt like I was nearly bending backwards here. Another thing I notice looking at the photo is that my nose is really pretty pointy. Maybe that’s a function of the side view, which isn’t how we normally see people, or maybe my nose really is particularly pointy. Either way I don’t thing it’s bad, just odd. Silhouettes are pretty forgiving, so overall I’m more comfortable with this than most pictures of myself.

The silhouette portrait has a rich history from its peak in the 18th century to the present. Despite the modern tools I used (iPhone and Photoshop) in place of paper and scissors, it still feels clearly related to that tradition. Add the classic shoulder swoop to the bottom and tighten up the hair a bit, and it would be right at home in a collection from the 19th century.

Ahead here (ahem) will be a mix of self portraits and portraits of myself I commission from others, both in different styles and media, possibly interspersed with a few portraits of others here and there as intermissions. Probably it will be a relatively short project, a few months or a year at most, but we’ll see how things go. Undoubtedly it will be at times intimate, and it will certainly frequently be uncomfortable for me, but perhaps by the end a little less so.

If you’re interested in participating in the project by making a portrait of me in whatever medium you prefer, please get in touch to discuss specifics at catasterist at gmail.