Project 3 Self-absented Portraiture Exercise 1

Brief: Go to the artists website and look at the other images in Shafran’s series.

You may have noticed that Washing-Up is the only piece of work in Part 3 created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

Nigel Shafran, 4th Jan 2000 from the series Washing Up.
  • Did it suprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

Initially when I read the text in the OCA exercise book I was quite suprised by the choice of subject matter for a man and the one image accompanying the text couldn’t help me much, I needed more. I looked at the rest of the series on Shafran’s website as suggested and I came away with a mixed reaction. It’s definitely not a feminine exclusive approach as there is quite a masculine distance to it – nothing implies that Shafran himself completed the task.

  • In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

Yes probably, although not always. But yes, usually one can tell if a female or male composed the frame. In this case I don’t think the series is gender specific at all. Having an interest in the habits of your family life based on a basic household task (and all the clues that are placed here) isn’t gender specific in my opinion. In general however, men tend to see a subject in a different way than a woman. They are normally more straightforward and direct in how they view and in what they chose to capture whereas women are often more emotional and personal with the way they interact with a subject. So perhaps if I were to be asked as to which gender I think ,ade the series without having first seen that it were a man I would have been able to tell the gender, but then again, perhaps not..

  • What does this series achieve by not including people?

By not including people the viewer is encouraged to make their own opinion based on assumptions formed from the visual clues left there for them. The image can imply a lot but it is still mysterious and the viewer is encouraged to use their imagination to create a picture of the family and their personal lives. I also think the series is as brave as a self-portrait involving the self as the photographers home and personal belongings are on show and that is sometimes even more uncomfortable than just showing some skin. Sometimes more can be told about a person (and their family) from a few of there personal belongings and the way that they are used and I think that leaves the Shafran very exposed. I know if I were to take photographs of parts of my house with or without arranging them first that I would feel very vulnerable because they say so much about me.

  • Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

I like how you can tell things about the family from the empty recycling and the little personal artifacts, the child’s drawing, the yellow and blue funny figurines as wine bottle stops, the yellow rubber gloves. I also like the change in light, from a dull day with blueish grey hues to a bright sunny days with rays touching some of the objects in the frame throwing others in to deep shadow, a night shot in complete darkness but for a splash of light perhaps from a streetlight or night light from the next room.


References: (accessed on 20/08/2017)