Volume 12, No. 2, Art. 6 – May 2011

Photographic Portraits: Narrative and Memory

Brian Roberts

Abstract: This article is a more general "companion" to the subsequent, Brian ROBERTS (2011) "Interpreting Photographic Portraits: Autobiography, Time Perspectives and Two School Photographs". The article seeks to add to the growing awareness of the importance of visual materials and methods in qualitative social research and to give an introduction to the "photographic self image"—self-portraits and portraits. It focuses on time and memory, including the experiential associations (in consciousness and the senses) that the self engenders, thus linking the "visual" (photographic) and "auto/biographical".

The article attempts to "map" a field—the use of portraiture within social science—drawing on narrative and biographical research, on one side, and photographic portraiture, on the other. In supporting the use of photography in qualitative research it points to the need for researchers to have a greater knowledge of photographic (and art) criticism and cognisance of photographic practices. The article does not intend to give a definitive account of photographic portraiture or prescribe in detail how it may be used within social science. It is an initial overview of the development and issues within the area of photographic portraiture and an exploration of relevant methodological issues when images of individuals are employed within social science—so that "portraiture" is better understood and developed within biographical and narrative research.

Key words: portrait; self-portrait; photographic self-image; narrative; time perspectives; memory; recurrence

Table of Contents

1. Overview

2. Photographs in Current Biographical/Narrative Social Research

3. Social Documentary Photography and Photographic Portraiture

4. The Photograph and Reality

5. The Photograph: The Mirror, the Screen ...

6. Photographic Self-Images: Portraits and Self-Portraits

7. Narratives and the Photographic Self-Image

8. Narratives: Visual and Written Text Materials

9. On Looking and Re-Looking at Photographs—Memory and Recurrence

9.1 Photographic self-images and recurrence

9.1.1 Spontaneous recurrence

9.1.2 Remembering as recurrence

9.1.3 Return as recurrence

10. Conclusion: Responses to Photographic Portraits

11. Epilogue: The Use of Photographic Portraits in Research

Acknowledgements

Appendix

Notes

References

Author

Citation

 

1. Overview



Illustration 1: The practice of photography—self-portrait, 2009 (B. ROBERTS, 2011)1) [1]

The article begins, in Section 2—"Photographs in Current Biographical/Narrative Research"—with an outline of the past and present use of visual materials in the social sciences. It notes the increasing and diverse use of photographs in narrative/biographical research (e.g. in interviews) and some of the main methodological issues that arise. The section also points to the types of photographic "genres" (containing portraits) that may be drawn upon and questions of skill, training and collaboration (with professional photographers). Section 3—"Social Documentary Photography and Photographic Portraiture"—considers the development and "traditions" of social documentary photography, which routinely contain portraiture. Such work is relevant for social science research in placing individuals in their social, political and environmental context. In Section 4—"The Photograph and Reality"—the nature of the "photograph" is considered: how a photograph is produced, by the photographer, the camera and the computer. The photograph is a complex construction in composition and subject to shifting interpretation. The "relation" between "reality" and the photograph is taken further in Section 5—"The Photograph: The Mirror, the Screen ..."—with reference to how we perceive portraits, as a mirror, or screen, or veil, etc. in and through which we try to "recognise" our image given in front of us. Thus, we can have a number of forms of interpretation or scrutiny of our self image. The history of photographic portraiture and its relation to the history and practice of painting is briefly outlined in Section 6—"Photographic Self-Images: Portraits and Self-Portraits"—including, particularly, the notion of the "pose". Section 7—"Narratives and the Photographic Self-Image"—provides a brief overview of the idea of "narrative", with narrative construction seen as an attempt to give meanings to the diversity of life experience. This is followed by how we "look" at self-images—how we connect images and experiences, a process involving the emotions and senses. Section 8—"Narratives: Visual and Written Text Materials"—explores the relation, differences and similarities, between the visual imagery and written materials according to methodological issues and narrative construction. Questions surrounding memory and time and photographic self-images are discussed in Section 9—"On Looking and Relooking at Photographs—Memory and Recurrence". Here are questions concerning how we "retrieve" and "re-experience" an image and its context according to the senses and subsequent experiences (and viewings). Section 10—"Conclusion: Responses to Photographic Portraits"—makes clear some of the paradoxes of the photographic self-image: for instance, while the photograph is of us, it still seems unfamiliar; we also "project" our self to others, while we "protect" an inner sense of who we are. Finally, in "Section 11—Epilogue: The Use of Photographic Portraits in Research"—the article draws up some guidance for the application of portraits and self-portraits in biographical and narrative research studies. [2]

2. Photographs in Current Biographical/Narrative Social Research

When we see photographic portraits of ourselves, maybe in an album of pictures including family and friends, commonly taken of holidays and celebratory events, a process of recognition (or "re-cognition") takes place which can vary in intensity and length. We recall the context and date, as far as we can, but this process of "looking" is not merely a "factual" scanning—as we survey the image, past associations and emotions are recovered and "brand new" thoughts, perceptions and feelings stimulated. Here are implicated questions of memory and time, identity and self-image, sensual connections, accompanying mood and, possibly, a personal life assessment, that are related to the seen image. We may ask ourselves:—"Has something been lost?", "Has something been gained?", "What has changed?", "What has remained the same?"2) [3]

This article is concerned with the use of the photographic camera and the interpretation of the "photographic self-image"—portraits of us by others and self- portraits.3) The photographic camera can, it seems, "do" many things: it can "shoot", it can "capture", it can "pry", and can reveal "secrets", both seeing things anew and (appearing to) confirm "what is". It lays "things" bare: "... the meaning of a camera, a weapon, a stealer of images and souls, a gun, an evil eye ... colder than keenest ice, and incalculably cruel" (AGEE & EVANS, 2006 [1941], pp.320, 322). [4]

The photographic portrait (including the self-portrait) was once seen as a lesser photographic form, a mere mechanical reproduction, but nevertheless was also appraised as demanding just as great technical skill, and as highly regarded artistically as any other photographic genre.4) It is at once both mundane and enigmatic:

"Of all the genres of photography, the most charismatic, and therefore the most difficult to resolve successfully, is the portrait. A portrait photograph immediately grabs the viewer's attention and triggers profoundly personal responses—emotional, paradoxical and not always rational. The issues raised are complex, challenging, even treacherous, revolving around the self and its representation, identity and immortality" (BADGER, 2007, p.169). [5]

The use of "visual" materials (photographs, film, painting etc.) has been generally neglected in the history of social science research.5) In the development of the social sciences, and humanities more generally, there has (in fact) been varying attention to visual materials. For instance, in terms of portraiture, literary/historical biography have routinely featured individual and group portraits (and photographs of birthplace, the person at work, on travels, etc.), whereas most other fields have given scant attention to such materials. In sociology, there was some use of photographs, as in the early days of the Chicago School. In anthropology there is also an uneven history of use of visual materials (photographs and film). Usage can be traced from early colonialist and traveller origins to academic research in the 1940s (BATESON & MEAD, 1942), before a demise and a more recent reappearance through "visual studies" in the 1970s onwards (see HARPER, 1998; PINK, 2006, pp.9-15).6) [6]

Despite being broadly overlooked in the past, visual materials are increasingly being explored in innovative ways within the social sciences. and, in particular in narrative and biographical research. Commonly, research on individual narratives and biographical life histories has been based primarily on transcript materials (written texts) gained from different forms of extensive interview (and, additionally, perhaps various kinds of other documentary materials, such as field notes). However, as RIESSMAN points out (in reviewing visual materials in narrative research), other forms of communication such as bodily movement, images, sound, etc. are now being considered more extensively (and in conjunction) in the study of individual lives (and in broader social research) (RIESSMAN, 2008, p.141; see also FINNEGAN, 2002; PINK, 2007). As she describes, painting, photography, collage and video, ranging from "found" to "requested" images, are now being investigated. Various types of approach are being employed such as "photovoice", "photo interviewing" and "photo-elicitation", " reflexive photography", "photo novella" and "autodriving" (see COLLIER & COLLIER, 1986; HURWORTH, 2003; RIESSMAN, 2008, pp.153-159; WAGNER, 1980). In addition, numerous kinds of analysis, interpretation, and theory (from differing disciplines) are being used to address the context of production and specific aspects of the image (RIESSMAN, 2008, p.180; see also HALFORD & KNOWLES, 2005; KNOBLAUCH, BAER, LAURIER, PETSCHKE & SCHNETTLER, 2008a; BOHNSACK, 2008). A broad range of "advantages" of using visual materials in narrative and biographical study—and in qualitative research generally—have been described: they can be used throughout research (e.g. as a research diary); to stimulate memories; to help others understand experience and outlook; as a key aspect of participatory or collaborative practice; to create new ideas and aid interpretation and theory; as interrelated with other methods and data; and to produce additional, richer interview material (see RIESSMAN, 2008; HALFORD & KNOWLES, 2005, and also HURWORTH, 2003; KNOBLAUCH , BAER, LAURIER, PETSCHKE & SCHNETTLER, 2008b). [7]

The use of photographs in sociology, and in auto/biographical sociology in particular, creates a series of methodological issues.7) For BECKER (1974), in his early exploration of areas of concern (before the subsequent "explosion" of qualitative methodology) these included training, truth and proof, sampling, reactivity, access, and conceptual procedures. Interestingly, BECKER elsewhere has also compared the characteristics of visual sociology, documentary photography and photojournalism by assessing the purposes of images from each area (1995). Immediate issues for sociologists, in considering photography for sociological research, are knowledge of photographic genres, the necessary photographic ability or familiarity with the practical and interpretive skills required, and relevance and benefits of images for a specific investigation. For example, the range of photo "genres" that may be drawn upon is very broad, such as documentary, street, war/conflict, news, portrait/studio, fashion, "family album", "wedding", pornographic, and abstract, and each has a different purpose, scope, function, audience or "aesthetic" and may be "amateur" or "professional" in origin. In addition, for research purposes, images may be already in existence (e.g., in a family album, on a mobile phone, in personal networking on-line albums, in an archive, etc.) rather than taken explicitly for the study—and this difference should be kept in mind. In terms of portraiture, for instance, it is important to recognise that "found" images of individuals can have differing "functions"—for personal, family, work and public reasons, and can be intended to depict age, status or other identifying aspects of individuals. Questions also arise concerning the relation between images and text (see Section 8), for example, both the text or image can "describe" or "illustrate" the other, or the text can be part of an image—intentionally included or added later within the image, or as title or caption. Images can be placed within, before or after bodies of text. Finally, more "abstractly", photographic portraits may be taken as both "material" and "artistic or representational" objects, both "showing" and also seeming to "stand in" for the individual portrayed (WEST, 2004, p.43). [8]

If the sociologist wishes to collaborate with professional photographers then there are further issues involved, especially in being clear what is wanted for sociological purposes. Of course, if the sociologist wishes to take the research photographs—or requests the research participants to take them—then there are questions of technical skill in using the camera and in processing via the computer, the quality of the images required, and degree of competence in how the images are to be presented (digitally and/or by print). Various kinds of collaboration between researcher, photographer and research participants can occur. If the research is to use already "found" (taken) photographs (e.g., in research using family albums, archived existing portraits, and so on) then this may produce further questions (e.g. contacting individuals shown for consent and copyright, relevant knowledge of the context and date, etc.; see DRAKE, FINNEGAN & EUSTACE, 1994).8) [9]

In summary, self- portraits and portraits fulfil various social functions: for research purposes they can be "found", or can be made by the researcher (for instance, as part of a research diary, to "illustrate" the research scene, or to provide portraits of participants, etc.), or with/by the research participant(s) (e.g., in collaborative, participatory research), or with/by a professional photographer. Photographs can also be taken at any point or throughout the research process, before/during/and after. However obtained, they can be used in research to gain oral (i.e., through forms of interview) or written comment and/or as part of "projects" combining with forms of art or artefacts. It is probable that different memories are gained in interviews where images are included than in those that do not include reference to images. Finally, it must be noted, the field of portraiture is very extensive, including, the "singular" portrait; the individual within a group; and the self-portrait/portrait placed in contemporary, historical, fictional or mythical context (through use of costume, backdrop, etc.). Also, there are issues regarding what the portrait and self-portrait is intended to reveal or express, e.g. skill, status, character or ageing, illness, and other characteristics, and the need to recognise the development and cross-cultural history of portraiture. Here, in this article, I will consider photography, and its place within sociology, only very generally; rather the focus is on examination of the meaning and use of photographs of self for qualitative research. [10]

3. Social Documentary Photography and Photographic Portraiture

An important area of "contact" between photography and sociological research, in terms of subject matter, and to some degree, intent (e.g. charting societal change and raising social issues) is "social documentary photography" (see LENMAN, 2008, pp.173-179). Current researchers in visual anthropology/sociology are well aware of social documentary photography and the use of the combination of photographs and text in the "documentary photo book", but this influential and important work merits further scrutiny (c.f. CALDWELL & BOURKE-WHITE, 1937; LANGE & TAYLOR, 1939; LANGE, 1982; CORWIN, MAY & WEISSMAN, 2010). There is growing interest, at least in Britain, in the history and recent development of forms of social documentary photography, by photographers, cultural critics and galleries, as indicated by publication of both newer and older work (see TATE LIVERPOOL, 2006; MELLOR, 2007; WILLIAMS & BRIGHT, 2007; SEABORNE & SPARHAM, 2011).9) Prominent recent photographic issues have been focused around the connections between photography, surveillance and voyeurism, etc. and the possibilities of street photography in current socio-political contexts (see HOWARTH & McLAREN, 2010; O'HAGAN, 2010; PHILIPS, 2010). This tradition of social investigation and documentary reportage (PRICE, 2004) can be traced back to RIIS's photographs of the poor in New York in the late 19th century; HINE's images of work people and social conditions (c.f. with the Pittsburgh Survey) in the early 20th century; and the famous work of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in the US and other documentary in the 1930s, depicting the lives of farm workers and others.10) A related documentary form is the "photo-essay" found in the photo-magazine in the inter-war years up to the early 1950s.11) The "pinnacle" of the "photo-book", which also broke "beyond" the "genre", was AGEE and EVANS's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" (originally to be an article for Fortune) based on the lives of three farming families. It is a poetical, biblical, factual, descriptive, radically auto-ethnographic script which veers from the smallest aspects of the life of poor tenant farmers to profound questions of human existence (2006 [1941]; see also ALLRED, 2010, pp.93-131; RATHBONE, 2000; HAMBOURG, ROSENHEIM, EKLUND & FINEMAN, 2000; MELLOW, 1999, pp.306-331; MORA & HILL, 2004; STOTT, 1973). One very striking feature of the work requires comment: EVANS's photographs (including individual and group portraits) are displayed uncaptioned at the very start of the book. [11]

Another "tradition" of the "photo-book" can be identified, leading back (in particular) to the work of BRASSAI on Paris, and BRANDT on the "English", in the 1930s (BROOKMAN, 2007; CAMPANY, 2006; DELANY, 2004; POIRIER, 2005) and surrounded by a broader current of "humanistic realism".12) This was followed during the mid 1950s, when an ambivalent, alienated, or ironic view of social life (often transgressing photographic conventions) was offered in Robert FRANK's "travelogue" across the U.S. and William KLEIN's view of New York.13) This work not only pointed to social division and the gap between reality and illusion, it was also a personal account of creativity and experience (BROOKMAN, 2010, p.219). It was influential on the growth of "street photography" (with its mix of the "quirky" and "mundane") depicting urban lives, during the 1960s and 1970s (see SHORE, 2008; WESTERBECK, 2005; WESTERBECK & MEYEROWITZ, 2001), and later photographic studies on the "underside" (e.g., drug addiction) or marginalised areas of social life. [12]

In documentary photography there is an initial problem of what is "documentary" or a "document" (see STOTT, 1973; LENMAN, 2008, pp.173-174) and a related deeper question: what are the "assumptions" which underlie the approach taken about the social world and/or its representation?14) These assumptions (it can be said) broadly stem from the "traditions" of "naturalism" and "realism" in artistic endeavour (including photography) in the depiction of "social scenes" (see ROBERTS, 1998; WILLIAMS, 1991; and also AGEE & EVANS, 2006 [1941], pp.205-217). The above areas of photography (social documentary, photo book, street photography, and related areas) are important sources of portraiture since they show people situated within their everyday social situations. To these "genres" can be added, for research purposes, "found" sources such as professional portraiture (in the studio and elsewhere) and informal picture-taking (by friends, families, etc). Finally, at least some mention should be made regarding the "documentary" work oral historians who have long used portrait and other photographs in the study of working lives, communities, health, migration and other areas and more recently have pioneered Web based resources (recorded interviews with transcripts, video, photographs, and the practice of "digital storytelling", etc.) (see FREUND & THOMSON, forthcoming; ROBERTS, 2008, par.76-81; see also ROBERTS, 2002, pp.93-114). [13]

4. The Photograph and Reality

The "real" in our daily living confronts us as a "rush", a myriad of visual and other sensual experiences; we search for connections (and "rhyme") amongst these "happenings". We respond to the world through the construction of interpretive meanings by, for example, the "typification" of individuals, events and objects. These narrative-biographical meanings we associate with experiences in the social world, and transfer and adapt them to other individuals, situations, etc., deemed to be similar, to guide our actions. In viewing photographs we refer to these previous "reserves of knowledge" that shape action, adapting them to current experience and anticipated situations. Through the act of photography (taking pictures of people, situations and our environment) and viewing images, we seek to give form to experience and structure to memories. [14]

Photographs can have the character of appearing to be "more real than real", due to their "glossiness" and heightened colour and definition—and have a directness of perspective that seems to include us as the viewer; they can seem to give qualities not only of a "super-reality" but of "fantasy" or "dreaminess", "uncannily like the world we know, yet more perfect, ordered and coherent" (EDWARDS, 2006, pp.101f.). Yet, the photograph is the result of a series of decisions and detailed applications by the photographer, involving choosing its context, selection of topic, the precise "moment", the focusing and framing of the image, etc., and a series of further processes through to its final presentation on a digital screen or as a print. By cropping (omitting part of the original image), increasing or decreasing depth of colours, darkening highlights or lightening shadows, sharpening, adding or reducing contrast and hue, and manipulating the image in other ways (e.g. erasing, or introducing new, elements) in the camera and computer, the image can be altered very substantially. In portraiture, "correcting" or "refining" the image (actions which have taken place since the beginning of photography), is not simply a "technical" or (even) an "aesthetic" exercise, it is intimately concerned with how we wish to portray ourselves or others and want an audience to see the image. Thus, when a photographic image is taken, there is a "composition" of a scene or portrait by angle, focus, framing, and other camera settings (e.g. image saving format), and then "computer work" by storing and editing/amending the image via software programmes. On printing, there are the additional characteristics of the printer (in tone, sharpness, colours which may differ from what was seen on the camera and computer screen) and the paper quality and type (and size of image) which may significantly affect the photograph and its reception. Thus, from the "reality" seen by the photographer to the digital image and photographic paper print, "amendments" are made along the way. There is then a very complex process of construction of the "representation of reality" before the viewer sees the final digital or printed image. Further, it should be noted, photographic aesthetics, style and appreciation change over time, and technological advances bring new photographic possibilities. [15]

Just as within the camera itself, or later on a computer and printer, we can change the image that has been "taken", so in our minds (interpretively, visually, emotionally) we can edit and track changes made. When viewing ourselves in a picture, through memory and reflection in our "mind's eye", we are also involved in an "editing" process—as we "crop" (i.e., concentrate on an aspect of the picture and determine what is to be "seen") or otherwise "alter" the image. Again, there is a "sensual" and "emotional" editing (a re-memorisation of words, sound, taste, smell, or touch) as well as internal visual modification, as an image is modified and ascribed new connotations. We may "re-date" and "re-contextualise" the image, perhaps by placing it in a different position where there is a sequence of existing images (as in the album or slide show) in "reviewing" our memory. [16]

In interpreting a past portrait within our current lives, we may not only be responding to others' comments or an anticipated audience, perhaps thereby, bringing new notions of its meaning(s) to us, but also be attempting to fit it into our current self-conceptions. Our memory of the self-image may, therefore, change a great deal on re-viewing. Looking back at an image of ourselves can lead us to re-evaluate our current self-image (and contemporary pictures), perhaps observing: "I have changed a great deal"; "I still look much the same". Re-viewing of images of self may well provoke self-questioning: "What was I doing?"; "Why was I doing that?"; "How did I do that?"; "When was that?"; "Where was I?" Images of self can importantly produce "what ifs", in terms of the self and action—"What if I had done that then, I could be this now or that in the future." In seeing photographs of self once again we re-connect elements of our lives. We "narrativise" and "fantasise" in the experience of looking and modifying, we re-compose a sense of self: "Who and What I was/might have been"; "Who and What I am or might be"; "Who and What I will be/could be" In this re-composition we draw on previous evaluations and current social relations, and also, wider "narrative" models of life (e.g. from the broader media and culture) and make applicable to our daily experience. [17]

5. The Photograph: The Mirror, the Screen ...

Photography has undergone immense change in the past twenty years or so. Digital photography, in particular, has brought the ability to produce, store and retrieve thousands of pictures very easily for re-viewing—and the camera can do more things "automatically". Instead of sending a film away to be "processed", a digital image can be viewed, manipulated, and reproduced within the camera, and on the home computer and printer. Digital technology, in addition, makes it very easy to insert images into written text or give a caption (and place text on) to a picture. It also allows our self-images or those of others to be readily taken on phones or palm sized video cameras, and shared via e-mail and posted on social network Web sites. These viewings of self have become routine, alongside the "mundane" seeing of our image in the daily round—in the bathroom mirror in the morning or evening, perhaps in a lift mirror at work, on a CCTV screen15) in a shop, or by glancing at our photo on an identity tag or card. Most viewings of images of self, whether digital or otherwise, tend to be cursory and sporadic without much circumspection—but, just occasionally we are "brought up short" by "catching" our image in a shop window or other reflection, and ask "Who is that?"; "Is that me?"; as we ponder for a moment, the image in front of us—our own "reflected self"?16) [18]

The common, "everyday" assumption of the photograph is that it "mirrors" "reality"— it is a faithful record of what is seen by the photographer and the camera. But, this idea fails to account for how the photographer and camera "see". What is "produced" by the "camera eye" (we can say again) includes what happens "technically" (automatically via the manufactured specifications of the camera) and, of course, also includes the photographer's actions in choosing camera "settings" from "menus" (e.g., light sensitivity), and the processing of the image in the camera, computer (and printer). Having said that, the photographic image could be taken, in a sense, to "reflect" like a mirror, to some extent—it does take from "reality", what is reproduced is recognisable as the person, landscape, etc.17) However, even if a picture is initially perceived as a mirror image of reality—of what was actually viewed (i.e., an object), even so, the image has still to be "seen", to be interpreted. In the detail of the image, or in the image as a whole, something different from that taken as "reality" may be apprehended—possibly resulting in some surprise. On subsequent occasions of looking, new meanings can be formed which (again) can possibly be quite unexpected. Nevertheless, in interpreting a photograph of ourselves, the idea of "mirror" may well be the routine or initial interpretive "frame" that we apply—and our "re-look" may not, in fact, raise a reaction that is much different, perhaps, from previous occasions when the image has been glanced at or surveyed, etc. But there is another sense in which the photograph may be conceived of as a "mirror". In the self-portrait, in its multiple forms, the individual perceives him- or herself as both "self" and "other", as "subject but also as "object"; simultaneously, we "are" the viewer while viewing our "double" who (it seems) may be looking straight back. It is as though we are looking in a mirror which shows both ourselves and someone else: "These qualities make self-portraits both compelling and elusive" (WEST, 2004, p.165). This "otherness" we also sometimes experience in looking at a "real" glass mirror or other type of reflection. Similarly, when we see another's self-image (especially if the face fills the frame) we might, just for a moment, confuse the staring face as our own. [19]

In summary, the notion that a photographic image provides a straight reflection of the "reality" of people, a scene, a landscape, etc. assumes that by "simply looking", we "know" the image as reality. The knowledge that the taker frames the picture and operates the camera settings, of the technology involved in the camera and computer in "capturing" the picture, and then the further effects of printing (the printer's characteristics, the type and size of photographic paper used, etc.) is "bracketed off". But, if the photograph is more than a "mirror" in how we interpret an image reflection of "our reality": what do we see when looking at a portrait of ourselves?" Or, perhaps we should rather ask: "How do we see?"—"What might the act of looking also be?" While our image is "caught", what is it to be "captured"? [20]

Apart from as a mirror, there are other significant ways through which we interpret our self-images. On seeing the photograph it may take on the properties of an impenetrable "screen"—simply a flat surface that cannot be seen through (i.e. like a cinema, computer or TV screen). A screen can "screen off" something by obscuring, protecting or hiding; in this sense the memory(ies) that a particular photograph may be associated with may "mask" an earlier, a contemporary (at the time of the photograph), or even a later experience (including in the "present" of the viewer).18) Or the photograph may be taken as a "window" or "portal"—a fully transparent surface that we can see, and even imaginatively be transported beyond.19) In between screen and window lie other possibilities, particular points on a continuum, ranging from near transparency (almost as a window), through various degrees of opaqueness, "frostiness" or "cloudiness", to where an image of self (or other image) is difficult to recognise but will (perhaps) emerge if we peer long and hard enough (as if the "mist" of the "crystal ball" will lift). Or, the image may have a different semi-transparency, like a veil, gauze, bead curtain, etc.—as having a porosity or permeability in which elements are missing or obscured: if only we can find and fill in the missing pieces we believe the image will be completed. Perhaps the photograph is also a "microscope" or a "magnifying glass"—as we look deeper into it, we "blow up" parts or the whole of the image, to see what is there for clues to personal mysteries and what links our past, present and future.20) Interpretively, looking at the image, as screen, window, and veil, etc., we are trying to see through the surface image to find out what lies behind—to explore, to clarify, to fill in gaps in self-understanding. A second look or closer examination may reveal something beyond the surface, what does not seem readily apparent—appears to take more shape, the "lost" parts become defined, and new elements emerge and cohere, as understandings form and a self(ves) is/are constructed. [21]

In gazing, peering, examining the image, we are attempting to understand what we were then, and what we were before and after the photograph was taken; we are looking at the photograph for what it can tell us about how we have changed—"What has become of us?" The photograph, whether taken as a screen or window, etc., seems to "tell us" about our life then and "invites us" to make connections in experience to the "now" and our future (see MITCHELL, 2005). The act of "looking" may also give a glimpse of secrets, lifting an "apparent reality" to reveal what seemed "hidden"—adding what is missing to complete a picture, seeing through what is opaque, etc. to find "new" personal meanings. [22]

Instead, therefore, of a reflection accepted as a simple, anticipated, unreflexive" truth", the image of ourselves, then, could be met with deeper self observation or self absorption (engrossment). What at first may seem a mere "mirror" image becomes, perhaps, something intriguing or profound. Here, a questioning or search for "self" may begin; rather than an unreflexive confirmation of an assumed self, an interrogation of being in association with photographic image, raising (if pursued) questions of the relations between real/unreal, reflection/ transparency, recognition/ non-recognition. So, in the act of looking there is a process of "doubling" of the self (a "seriality")—the formation of multiple and differing images of "selves" in time: "That was what I was"; "That is me still"; "I could have been that then ... and now ... and in the future" (see ROBERTS, 2011).21) We may not be merely glancing at a photograph of a past transitory episode, a moment in our lives, but seeking to find how it fits into a trajectory, pattern and meaning of our existence. The portrait was "us" but is it still "us", as then, now and in the future? [23]

6. Photographic Self-Images: Portraits and Self-Portraits

The emergence of 19th century photographic portraiture drew upon classical and religious art traditions in picturing the upper classes. But alongside such traditional influences were contemporary developments in "scientific" thinking (phrenology and physiognomy—the head and face as indicators of "character") and the impetus to record "facts" on the "dangerous classes" (and monitor the perceived "threats" of crime and disease, c.f. the rise of "court", "census" and other "social statistics", and the invention of fingerprinting) (see ERTEM, 2006). Thus, photographic portraiture was both a means of representing the "bourgeois self", as well as recording and archiving information (i.e., the "criminal portrait") for purposes of social regulation. The photographic portrait (initially taken by a professional or well-off amateur) quite quickly lost its exclusivity in recording high "status" (although still used in this manner, as in "official" and "news" photographs" of political, business, academic leaders and others) or as part of the social activities of the wealthier classes. It had become a widespread phenomenon by the late 19th century. The recording of personal milestones, family celebrations, work or leisure activities, social conditions, or used as "calling cards", etc. amongst other social classes became commonplace, even as early as the 1850s, photographic societies were being founded.22) [24]

It should be noted that there are various ways that photographic portraits can be made. A self-portrait by an individual can be taken: by means of a tripod (or surface) and using a remote control or time delay on the camera; by photographing a reflected image in a mirror (or other reflection from some shiny surface, see Illustration 1); by holding the pointing camera out at arm's length; by using a commercial photo-booth; or by photographing a silhouette/shadow. Where a portrait is taken by someone else, the degree of "control" over "posing" for the camera can vary from the "subject" setting the camera for the taker to press the release button, e.g., ranging from the tourist asking a passer-by for help, a friend taking a picture of an individual or group, where someone "directs" the pose (e.g., the commercial "photo-shoot"), to the "candid" photograph taken perhaps without the individual's apparent awareness. [25]

Photography, from its beginnings, was taken as both a technical, automatic recording of the object (requiring little from the taker) while also as an "art" due to the intervention of the photographer—a dual legacy that appears to remain (ERTEM, 2006; EDWARDS, 2006). A discussion of the photographer's role in relation to the "photographic portrait" opens parallel interesting concerns surrounding the processes of representation in art (painting, drawing, sculpture, video, etc.), however, while these are relevant, they are too large to be tackled in detail here. Even so, the great extent to which early (formal) photographic portraiture had similarities with painting traditions, as in the formation of the "pose" (e.g., stance, expression), should be noted (see EDWARDS, 2006, pp.40-48; ERTEM, 2006; LENMAN, 2008, p.517). Commentaries on connections between portraiture in painting and photography often include associated concerns: facial expression and character, "likeness", deportment and iconography (e.g., connections between portraiture and religious images), and "authenticity" and representation (see WEST, 2004, pp.34-37; FREELAND, 2010; GAGE, 2004; BARLOW, 2004; CUMMING, 2009; VAN ALPHEN, 2004; WELLS, 2004; WOODALL, 2004a). Keen debate continues on issues regarding the relation of photography to "art" (see COTTON, 2004; FRIED, 2008). [26]

All individual portrait photographs (whether by self or other, "posed" or "candid", etc.), at least to some extent, can be regarded as part of (or representing) a "type"—according to activity, dress, manner, etc. depicted.23) Certainly, when an individual "poses" there is the social influence of mores on "how one should pose", given the situation, one's status or age, etc., for an intended audience. Of course, a prime function of some portraits is to denote social standing (e.g., achievement), character (e.g. dignity) or physical attribute (e.g., attractiveness) within a group or institution, or to an audience. The "pose" (and expression) has socially "given" aspects, and so the "self-portrait often repeats familiar conventions" in particular periods; but "it also brings scope for complex interpretation" (RIDEAL, 2005, p.7) e.g., in what the pose is meant to convey, its diversity at specific moments, and when it changes new conventions are formed. [27]

A great deal more could be added, here, about the formation of the "pose" (of a single individual or person as part of a group) and related issues in portraits in photography compared with painting (see, FRIED, 2008, pp.191-235; KOZLOFF, 2007, pp.7-11; WEST, 2004). However at base, as BADGER argues, the pose "is closely related to the question of appearances":

"If photography is essentially about scrutiny and observation, it must also be about the pose, for the pose is the subject's presentation of his or her identity to the photographer, an act which ensures the preservation of that identity. The old idea that a photograph steals the soul dies hard, and not altogether without cause, because the pose is the subject's defence. It is an essential element in the representation of the human figure, the mediating step taken by the sitter to 're-present' his or her interface with the world" (2007, p.174). [28]

Even though the pose can vary according to context and other factors, in essence, it can be said that, we "show ourselves in a 'pose', but we also hide behind a pose" (HOLSCHBACH, 2008, p.17) [29]

We must not forget that "styles" of photographic portraiture are very varied and, for instance, include "art photography". The differing styles of portraiture overlap with each other and also with wider photographic genres. The nature of portraiture is changing rapidly; contemporary portraiture is increasingly cognisant of the developing socio-technological context. According to one view (in a discussion of art photography) those "who wish to say something meaningful about the face are looking for strategies and tactics to match its rapidly evolving social and technological environment" (EWING, 2006, p.13). [30]

7. Narratives and the Photographic Self-Image

Individuals attempt to give meaning, order and direction to their lives, in the face of the diversity and intensity of experience, through the formation of "personal narratives".24) Such individual accounts may be shifting or relatively static, too changeable so they lose connection and pattern, or too "set" as to be unable to have a flexibility of self to interact sufficiently with social surroundings, thereby, inadequately guide necessary lines of personal action for a coherent and a "versatile" "sense of self".25) Narratives, at the one extreme, bring a personal stasis or repetition, while at the other, a dizzying swirl of self-reconstruction and fragmentation—and so, tending towards, at one pole, a certain fixivity of past memory, while at the other, an endless round of hope, fear or confusion brought by an ongoing search for, or arising from, new identity(ies) which resist consolidation (McADAMS, 1993, p.166; see FRANK, 1984; KLAPP, 1969). However, between these poles, narrative formation and reformation can provide the necessary means to review and "re-view" (although with varying degrees of self-reflection) and give a "provisional order" to our lives. As RIESSMAN (2005, p.6) states:

"Narratives do not mirror, they refract the past ...The 'truths' of narrative accounts are not in their faithful representations of a past world, but in the shifting connections they forge among past, present and future. They offer storytellers a way to re-imagine lives ... narrative analysis can forge connections between personal biography and social structure—the personal and the political". [31]

Several "fundamental" types of narrative have been identified by researchers, which tend to be found empirically in mixed examples in particular cultural contexts and actual personal accounts. For instance, GERGEN and GERGEN, describe basic types as "the tragic narrative", "comedy or romance", and the "happily ever after" myth with more "complex variants" being located in actual individuals' narratives (1984, pp.176-177; GERGEN, 1999, pp.70-72). GERGEN and GERGEN emphasise "dramatic engagement" in narratives—the emotions, feelings, and drama associated with connections in experience (ROBERTS, 2004c, pp.91-92). Of further interest here is BROCKMEIER's notion of "autobiographical time" or orders of "temporality" and connection. He identifies six narrative models of autobiographical time (linear, circular, cyclical, spiral, static, fragmentary); each has a different "vision" of the "course" and "direction of time"—with key metaphors expressed which bring together the periods and elements of the life account (e.g., an "arrow" for a linear model) (BROCKMEIER, 2001, p.461; see also BROCKMEIER, 2002; ROBERTS, 2004c, pp.92-93; SMITH & SPARKES, 2002; SPARKES & SMITH, 2003). Although our "starting point" is our location in the present, we may move through various "time perspectives" in the past, present and future in interpreting images of ourselves—different trajectories in trying to understand the "passing" of our lives (see ROBERTS, 2011). [32]

The construction of a self narrative rests fundamentally on the personal ability to make clear linkages between life events so as to make experience intelligible—an attempt to give some coherence. Individuals will vary in the degree to which they are able to make some pattern out of experience and this endeavour will differ in strength over time. A wide range of connections may be made by individuals in constructing autobiographical narratives, such as coincidence, fate, chance, choice, contingency, fortune, preordination, déjà-vu, and serendipity, and these we may apply when we view our portrait photographs. These techniques are employed by individuals to make attachments between the myriad of experiences, emotions, and events that occur in life—to order and relate, and establish "rhythm", "theme" and "flow" in, simply, "what happens" to us. Life connections, or how we associate one memory (of a person, event, feeling, piece of music, conversation, place, etc.) with another, are intricate and varied, and are used to "compose" our "life" and sense of self. Some forms of connection allow for more self-agency ("I chose to take that direction"), others are perceived as the result of social or other circumstance ("I had no alternative due to ..."). The connections we make in joining our life-experience may be rhetorically summarised in metaphor or simile—"Recently, my life has been a 'roller-coaster'"; "My life has been like a river, I have gone with the flow". We imaginatively comprehend our lives as auto/biographic composers in trying to gain "composure" and (re)compose a "sense of self"—in words, verbally and in thought, visually and according to the other senses (SUMMERFIELD, 1998, pp.16-17; see also SHERIDAN, STREET & BLOOME, 2000; ROBERTS, 2007, pp.44-46, 2011; ROBERTS, J., 1998). [33]

The use of these connections need not be consistent in a given individual narrative. As we recall, we interpret and re-interpret (i.e., re-view, re-feel, etc.), "living" in a retrospective-prospective endeavour to give meaning to what has occurred, what is taking place, or may happen—in a vain effort to give a definite linearality, consistency and understanding of life's diversity. In terms of images we also re-visualise (if the image has been seen previously by us) and modify sensual-emotional re-associations, a process apparent when seeing our portrait photograph. This process of "looking", therefore, includes an interpretation of the seen elements of the photograph but also engages the other senses (touch, sounds, etc.) as it engenders memories of the scene portrayed. The influences of contemporary personal experience—the immediate context, our broader personal circumstance and outlook—feed into this process of "looking"; and even the "feel" of the photograph, its frame or folder, and the effect of reading any written caption or dedication, can affect our response to the image. We do not only "visualise" our lives—we also "perform" our life in the mind, as well as in action, through our sensual, aesthetic, artistic and everyday capabilities. [34]

8. Narratives: Visual and Written Text Materials

There are some very complex issues regarding the relation between visual (and aural) and textual materials in narrative analysis. Apart from the kind of visual and written textual materials to be presented, these can include: the extent to which they are meant to largely "stand" separately when presented on the same subject, providing different "accounts" (for possible indirect comparison, contrast, etc.); the degree one "describes", "supports" or, even, "subverts" the other (some kind of implicit/explicit interplay, by irony, humour, etc.); implications for how they are represented in form (e.g., on the Web), their proximity, sequentially, simultaneity, etc.; how much material from each is given (n.b. one may be used to "summarise" the other); and, finally, whether other materials (e.g., objects) are placed with the visual and textual materials, and so on.26) [35]

A substantial number of methodological similarities in approach have been pointed out between visual analysis and text based methods, as in the use of transcribed narrative interviews.27) For instance, it is argued, that both the camera and tape recorder do not merely "record"—instead, the photographer and interviewer operate in specific situations and have degrees of control in recording/selection; both means can be used to aid description of context, argument, interpretation and theorisation by the researcher; and the materials from both methods require close analysis. Also, it is said that there is not a "simple realism" in narratives or images—rather, interpretation is required and on-going, since new insights can be made; the materials from both can be used productively together; and, finally, both methods uncover only a "fragment" of experience (RIESSMAN, 2008, p.181). For RIESSMAN

"[a] photograph stabilizes a moment in time, preserving a fragment of narrative experience that otherwise would be lost. Transcripts or oral narratives similarly 'fix' a moment in the stream of conversation. But ... the same oral narrative can be transcribed in different ways, each pointing interpretation in different directions and, if the conversational context changes, the speaker would likely shape her story for the new audience. Related issues arise with images ... In a word, investigators must guard against reifying a single transcript or image as the 'real thing'" (p.179). [36]

WEST argues, in relation to self-portraits (by artists) that they can be very varied and questions how they relate to narrative and the "revelatory qualities of autobiography" (2004, p.78). She observes that, as individuals, we are a "fragmented" collection of experiences and emotions, etc., but, "autobiographical narrative" seems to aim towards producing a "unified self". She adds, that although a written autobiography is "constrained" by what the authors select about their life to relate, "a work of art" is even more curtailed by "technical limitations" since (unlike video, etc.) it can merely give "a series of frozen moments" (p.78). Both the portrait and the narrative, the picture and words, can be regarded as having a comparable distinctiveness: in the sense that, just as pictures cannot be fully described in words, so words cannot be fully translated into pictures. Further, both are restricted in giving the felt emotion of an individual but are expressions of it, through which we can "describe" ourselves and "relate" to each other. We may not be able to translate a portrait into words to any great extent even if looking for longer than a glance—alternatively, a glance may be sufficient to bring an extensive narrative. Similarly, a narration—short or extensive—may contain little visual imagery in relation to self. A complex issue follows here pertaining to how may photographs of self (by oneself or others) and autobiographical writing be used in conjunction?28) Do portrait photographs aid autobiographical narrative construction, which is caught between a "multiple", "decentred", "fragmentary" self and the need for a sense of cohesion and continuity? Or is the photograph itself also divided between dissolution and unity (between multiple interpretation of the image and the attempt to "impose" order to visual experience) (RUGG, 1997)? We may conclude, on considering these questions, that in the composition of narrative using text and imagery there are two lines of continuum: one visual and one textual—each continuum has the tendency to observe and replicate self-fragmentation and self-division and the striving for self-unification, the self as an embodied unity, and integrated within time and context. For RUGG, the introduction of the photograph into autobiographical narrative lends assistance (and insight) to both conflicting views of the "self"—as a disparate or as a singular entity. Perhaps, the "self" itself may be the attempt to organise, negotiate and monitor—and reconcile ("privately" and "publicly") through performance and presentation—these "polarities".29) [37]

In forming our narratives in relation to a photographic self-image we are aware that the portrait is an indicator of a time passed and time passing, and our eventual end. But it can also represent the past as now in contemporary consciousness, and as in the future (as it will probably "survive" our physical demise)—as memories are re-affirmed, recovered, and reshaped. The portrait photograph

"... is a sign of the passing of time, of the fact that what we see in the shiny surface of the photographic print no longer exists as we see it: it is a sign, again, of our inexorable mortality (as well as, paradoxically, an always failed means of our re-securing our hope of having the photographed subject 'live' forever)" (JONES, 2006, p.46). [38]

Of course, many artists and photographers have constructed self-portraits (e.g., often as engaged in their work) with some narrative content—some, at least implied, "story"—which may link to their daily life-concerns directly or be more "fictional-fantastical-mythical" in orientation (by depicting themselves in historical, "classical" costume or alluding to film or popular cultural "roles"). There can also be multiple self-portraits given in the same picture or as part of a collage, possibly with other images, or as an installation mixing images with various objects. Artists have also included, in a variety of ways, their own portrait in individual or group portraits they have made of others.30) Finally, it is worth noting that within contemporary "art photography" (as loosely described) there are "apparently unselfconscious, subjective, day-to-day, confessional modes", or expressions of "intimate life", and also that the area of "performance art" has concerns with autobiography and the body, and identities (COTTON, 2004, p.137; see also GOLDBERG, 2001). [39]

9. On Looking and Re-Looking at Photographs—Memory and Recurrence31)

On "looking" at photographs of ourselves we are engaged in an imaginative narrative construction (as described above).32) This is not to say that narratives are produced that are fully formed or coherent—there may well be inconsistencies and omissions, and it can be said we are always engaged in personal construction without given endings, as circumstances alter, reflection is modified, memories are re-defined, and "new" memories and expectations emerge. Thus, for example, the personal reaction to a "photographic self-image" may indicate shifts in self perception and construction as individuals relate their lives to and through photographic depictions of themselves. While each narrative produced is a unique account of experience, some general (basic) forms of narrative have been identified (n.b. see above—the "tragic", "happy ending", etc.) often imbued with the individual's overall mood and life-outlook. There is an especially important issue here in relation to "mood" in personal narratives and photographs of self—since some writers have posited that the "photograph" is essentially "melancholic"—recalling the past, as referring to what has gone, or as intimately associated with loss and death (c.f. BARTHES, SONTAG and LÉVI-STRAUSS). Even what appears to be a joyous picture can be taken only as evidence that "all things pass and fade" (EDWARDS, 2006, pp.118f.).33) In this view, the photograph merely records that something existed in another place and time or that, over a period, diverse meanings are accrued and original context and meanings are obscured or forgotten (and so, the photograph becomes merely an "object" for appreciation). Here, the photograph is a given "surface" on which interpretations play and the depth of original associated sensory experiences and memories, thereby, cannot be recovered. But, against this understanding, as EDWARDS describes (following BENJAMIN), we can argue that photographs can bring back the past as active—within the present, and anticipate the future:

"Despite the influence of this argument, this melancholic conception is open to dispute. If photographs encapsulate the peculiar temporal paradox of here-now and there-then, by definition, this condition must work both ways round: as much as the image conveys something of death, reminding us of the unstoppable passing of time, it simultaneously brings a moment from the past to life for us ... Benjamin is important ... in contrast to Barthes, he was committed to making the past active in the present ... concerned to recapture the past from the 'victors' ... For him, nothing in the past had truly disappeared forever; its traces could be rediscovered and put to use" (EDWARDS, 2006, pp.119-120; see also KEENAN, 1998). [40]

"Taking a picture" is an act intended to foster remembering, and by the photograph's continued existence thereby, and so it helps to shape memory of experience. Further, the act of photographing (and videoing) is itself part of the surrounding event to be remembered. To take a photograph—an attempt to "capture" a scene, a ritual (e.g., a wedding), a face, etc.—is, itself, part of our realisation that we "lose" memories (see KEENAN, 1998). Describing the photographic portrait, JONES says that it holds a "promise"; referring to the "performative" work of Cindy SHERMAN and others, she argues:

"The photograph, as is well noted by theorists such as Barthes, is a death-dealing apparatus in its capacity to fetishize and congeal time. At the same time, we are drawn to the photographic portrait image as a promise of delaying or eradicating mortality. In their exaggerated theatricality, these works I look at here thus foreground the fact that the self portrait photograph is eminently performative and so life-giving" (JONES, 2006, p.42).34) [41]

Photographs and "photographing" (as in portraiture) can, in short, stimulate a "memorising" of people, events and objects and associated emotional and sensual experiences which are placed within contemporary thoughts, feelings and circumstances—"We photograph so that we remember". As EDWARDS says, what occurs in this memorising process may not be expected (c.f. PROUST). When we view pictures of ourselves, that perhaps we have seen many times before, we have pre-notions of what we will see and our response, but even so, elements, connections and feelings (as argued earlier) which are not anticipated may enter our "re-view" and narrative construction—especially if we see the pictures with others (and who may also appear in the photograph) (EDWARDS, 2006, pp.120f.). Also a photographic portrait, while recording a face at a given moment, carries some of the past of how I looked and an indicator of some of what I may well become. It portrays both continuity and change, which are apparent when we view multiple photographs of ourselves taken over time. Sometimes we notice some change when viewing a new portrait photograph of ourselves or others that we had not "picked up" in recently seeing our face or that of others in daily interaction; maybe there is something different due to ageing lines around the eyes and mouth, in the skin tone or in hair colour and thickness, and so some shift in expression or "look". Finally, is there a sense in which the camera can "arrest time"? Perhaps, some black and white images, rather than colour, may be beyond "dating", timeless (ASSOULINE, 2005, pp.234, 238)? Such photographic images, like narratives (to which they may be associated) can "separate themselves" from, or rather "go beyond" an era, a temporal reference, and relate to both the original setting (e.g., of family life, a tragedy, war wounded) and to the general features of "humanity"—the perennial human condition, and its aspects such as love and loss, ageing and death. [42]

A finished photograph is subject, however composed, to interpretation and re-interpretation—and it may well be placed alongside others in a digital slideshow, print book or album, which introduces a particular interpretive positioning (e.g. as part of a chronology or alongside contemporaneous images). We perceive images in very complex ways, including through the social context of "looking" (on our own, or in interaction with friends or relatives who are also seeing the same photograph[s]). On viewing an image for the first time, an initial interpretation of its content is applied (drawing on anticipations, feelings, and memories aroused)—these may alter when the photograph is looked at for a little longer or on subsequent occasions. Seeing photographs of oneself generates "memory traces" of time and place, and previous notions of self and social identities. The process of looking can be a more or less emotional, sensual, and often social experience which brings with it expectations, for instance, regarding the self to be seen (including conceptions from any previous viewing). As we shift in self-perspective, from situation to situation, and change physically and emotionally over life's course—we "re-view" our self-image, including when we see our photographic images and those self-portraits we hold in memory (our "image archive" and those of the other senses and the emotions). In short, the "process" of "looking" or "seeing" is a complex entity: it may be just a glance, an "idle" gaze, a "viewing" with others, an inspection or examination, a deep reflection—or some combination of these; even a cursory glance may bring "vivid" memories of images and sensual experience and self-reflection. [43]

When we see a self-image, an intimate process begins—of recognition, non-recognition and "mis-recognition". Just as photographic images can be altered within the camera's technology and on the computer screen by using software programmes—by cropping, straightening, contrast, colour temperature, saturation, lightening, darkening or use of effects to "warm", "glow", "tint", etc., the image— a parallel "internal" editing in the "mind" can be done within memory and imagination. Particular parts of it may be enhanced, omitted, substituted or added in the "mind's eye". These are not simply "visual edits" but include emotional and sensual responses as a picture may be seen new or "afresh" with new thoughts, connections and feelings. Past situations are "brought back" into contemporary experience as subjects for "appraisal" and are "re-lived", "retained", "amended", "re-ordered" or "erased"—are "re-narrativised" and "re-memorised" alongside current experience. As COLLEY (2002, p.92) observes:

"We all of us convert life's crowded, untidy experiences into stories in our own minds, re-arranging awkward facts into coherent patterns as we go along, and omitting episodes that seem in retrospect peripheral, discordant, or too embarrassing or painful to bear". [44]

"Memory" or "memorising" is part of the routine imaginative processes through which we guide action during our daily life. As TOULMIN and GOODFIELD argue, it is central to the construction of "our own personal reconstruction of the past" because it is "the first essential stepping-stone" in linking individuals, through family and others to societal traditions (1967, p.25). Again, what "turns up" in memory is not always expected. As EDWARDS (2006, p.121) argues, in relation to viewing photographs:

"Photographs provoke acts of memory recalling us to things, places, and people. They establish connections across time and space, including chains of association. What will be dredged up in memory's driftnet cannot be predicted in advance: an item of clothing or decor in a picture can spark connections and associations". [45]

Memories, following MEAD, should be seen as situated in the continuing formation of experience:

"We frequently have memories that we cannot date, that we cannot place ... We remember perfectly distinctly the picture, but we do not have it definitely placed, and until we can place it in terms of our past experience we are not satisfied" (THOMPSON & TUNSTALL, 1971, p.144; see PETRAS, 1968; MAINES, SUGRUE & KATOVICH, 1983, p.164). [46]

In this way, "memory imagery" is "fitted in" by an inclusion or exclusion of elements, into a framework of experience—as the "assurances which we give to a remembered occurrence come from the structures with which they accord" (MEAD, 1929, p.237, 1956, p.335; see also FLAHERTY & FINE, 2001). In memory we may recall and structure not only the "whats" and "whys", but also the "what ifs", "if onlys" or the "fantasies" of experience. Indeed, "fantasy" is a critical feature of memory and should not be deemed as mere "fancy"—as occurring only in some trivial remembrance, a mere "day dream" or seen as only idle speculation on what may happen. It is necessary in reviewing our life and rehearsing our future (see ROBERTS, 2007). [47]

Memories that we have are more than mere sets of "retrieved" images that were framed in ongoing experience. Any image is associated with its past context and the current circumstances of its "revival"; it connects with the range of senses (e.g., a remembered image of a person may bring the sound of their voice). Past experiences "are not merely visualised but also re-experienced by being "re-heard", "re-smelled", "re-touched" and "re-felt", etc." in memory—"a recalled image, a remembered piece of music, or a taste, or an odour may bring an association with other sensual and emotional feelings" (ROBERTS, 2007, p.43). It is clear that "some of our most powerful and important 'memories' may initially arise from dimensions other than the immediately visual—and all memories, in whatever form, are 'evocative'" (p.43; see also DRIESSEN, 1998, p.8). [48]

9.1 Photographic self-images and recurrence

"Recurrence" is the characteristic feature of memory. A past "happening" may only be for only a second or so, but subject still to frequent revisits and re-interpretation. An earlier seemingly inconsequential experience is recalled or repeated, or the mind "casts" back to what are taken as significant, "nodal" incidents (epiphanies, turning points). The latter are both meaningful and meaning-empty—as points of "recurrence" they are "localities of mystery" within life, used to apply "time" and "re-time" our experiences.35) [49]

Charles DICKENS, through the character "Pip" in "Great Expectations", gives a sense of how we reflect on the timing of past circumstances in an effort to make consistent sense of our life:

"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day" (in FRANK, 1984, p.154). [50]

Recurrence is a key aspect of looking at "auto/biographical photographic images" or portraits (by others) and self-portraits of ourselves—in a number of ways. [51]

9.1.1 Spontaneous recurrence

Spontaneous recurrence is an involuntary, unconscious-to-conscious movement of a memory into thought, feeling and imagery: so "events, objects, relationships, emotions, and sensations may appear as if 'spontaneously' within the present consciousness although due to some clear association with elements" in contemporary life that is not (at least immediately) apparent (ROBERTS, 2003, p.17, 2004a). In looking at photographs, the whole or a part of the particular image might stimulate detailed memories and related sensual and emotional feelings. At its simplest, according to EDWARDS (following PROUST) there can be "voluntary" and "involuntary memory":

"Proust contrasted the inadequacy of 'voluntary memory', in which we consciously try to recall the past, to 'involuntary memory', which floods through us as a response to some unexpected stimulus. Voluntary memory, he felt, was always frustrated in its goal, whereas the unwilled memory could be more successful in capturing a moment of past time. For him, photographs provide a key stimulus for involuntary memory" (EDWARDS, 2006, p.121). [52]

9.1.2 Remembering as recurrence

This recurrence is the "function" of an active reminiscence—voluntary memory: "When did it happen?", "What did I do?", "Yes, I remember that too!", "That was an enjoyable occasion". Here is the "conscious thinking" about the past, brought into contemporary consciousness within possible interaction with others (ROBERTS, 2003, p.17, 2004a). [53]

9.1.3 Return as recurrence

We can say that spontaneous (Section 9.1.1) and voluntary memories (Section 9.1.2) provide necessary elements for narrative interpretations of life—they are likely to include more than linear time constructions and encourage some reflection. They can also set in motion further interpretive thought on previous experiences, perhaps a more imaginative manipulation of memory—a "return", a fuller "repetition", so as to "re-live; "re-story", "re-envision", "re-sensualise" and "re-enact"—to reconnect and re-invigorate what was an interest, a path, or a relationship that was ended or not fully pursued (see ROBERTS, 2004a):

"This type [of recurrence] takes two forms: firstly, a return to 'relive' specific events, relationships, experiences and objects which become 'nodal'—perceived as significant in life and subject to repeated recovery. Here there is a search for missed, hidden or alternative meanings—'truths' which can be uncovered. Secondly, there is the more manipulative re-envision, re-story and re-enactment which is not merely to find the 'clues' to past circumstances but to ask 'What if'—'Could things have been different if I had done that?' This is the 'fantasy' of the alternative life or lives" (2003, pp.17f.). [54]

By return as recurrence, the life trajectory can be perceived as if it could have taken another arc with a different set of experiences. While the operation of memory is obviously connected to the construction of the "past", its origin is in the "present", while also associated with the future. We rehearse future action—we can anticipate the likely success or failure of different projects. In addition, we also have a retrospective rehearsal—"What if I had made that decision?"; "Perhaps I could be doing that now"; "I could do that in the future" (ROBERTS, 2007, p.43; see SCHUTZ, 1972, p.103). These rehearsals are located in imagination and, its component, "fantasy". Some continuing, "creative fantasising" in life composition is vital for our sense of being and necessary to avoid the perils of obsession (over-repetition) and degeneration (or stasis) in life narrative (see FRANK, 1984). [55]

Illustration 6 outlines the types of "recurrence" in memory and indicates that one type can "lead" to another.



Illustration 6: Memory and types of recurrence [56]

Recurrence, in its various forms, brings a "re-consideration"—a pondering of what had or could have ("if only") occurred in our lives: regret and relief, happiness and sadness, tensions of secrets and lies, reaction to failures and successes, and so on.36) All these feelings may happen when we look at photographs of ourselves, say, as a child. The actions and decisions that were made (or could have been made) may be re-assessed, as perhaps perceived as if for the first time, and even in retrospect as having a major effect on our life path—or, alternatively, not so important after all in life's trajectory. Thus, in thought, possible actions and decisions can intrude and be pursued. Viewing photographic portraits can bring such a re-visualisation of events, re-wording of past conversations, re-enactment of actions, and re-sensualisation and re-emotionalisation of past experience to a greater or lesser degree—as previous or arising memories are reshaped and alternative life paths experiences imagined:

"Because it gives us a body with which to engage, the photographic portrait (perhaps especially if it is our own portrait) encourages us to attach to it via our own psychic past; it calls out for us to bring embodied experiences from our own past (whether repressed and 'forgotten' or easily called to mind) into dialogue with it in order to give this 'new' subject meaning within our own world view" (JONES, 2006, pp.54-5). [57]

10. Conclusion: Responses to Photographic Portraits

When looking at a photograph of self, a process of recognition (or mis-recognition) operates; the response to a self-image can be very varied—in part, depending on whether we already know that the image is of ourselves, because we may have taken it or have been told previously it is us (e.g., a picture as a child). If it has not been seen by us before, then we may soon recognise it as ourselves—as if a "reflection" (a "mirror") (see Section 5) or merely as we once were, even if the picture is from many years ago. But it may be that while the image is recognisable, visually as having been "me", is it "me" as I am? It may seem to represent a past self that is opaque, blurred, or even unrecoverable. Or I may see a picture of someone but I am not sure I can "re-cognise" who it is—is it really "me", and still as now? I try to "read" into the image but my attempt at "attachment" is fraught, I try to look "through" the surface of the picture (as though seeing the person through a "frosted glass" or "semi-transparent screen") to gain clarity and certainty through affective and other connections. The person shown in a picture may seem not to have much of (or any longer) a tie with us; we know it is a picture of us, as we attempt to look into or through the image, to construct a meaningful link but the tie eludes us. We want to "know" the person, but who they were escapes us. We ask "Who was I then?" and "What did I feel and think?" We look at the picture and the face looks back, not revealing its "secrets". However, we may see a photograph and have some partial recognition, we are not entirely sure but there are elements that are familiar (the image is interpretively like a "gauze" or "bead curtain"). If we could only "familiarise" those elements that are not fully recognised then, perhaps, the linkage between our present and the subject in the past would become apparent and established. Finally, the photographed person may seem a stranger to us or, at best, has some vague familiarity. The photograph here tends towards being a mere object, a record (a picture on an impervious "screen", as some unknown portrait on a wall, in a book, etc.). It is obviously a picture of someone and it may arouse some curiosity, like some historical document. Our memory is not able to place us in the position of the photographed subject, and helpful comments by others on the photographs may not be sufficient to enable recognition. The "photographic I" of the picture remains unconfirmed. [58]

A photograph can be said to "mediate", its surface seemingly lies between us and our previous self(ves). It appears that even when we "pictorially know" the image is of ourselves, and about our social relationships, the photograph can still exude some unfamiliarity and strangeness. We look at our portrait and the "self" in the picture stares back. Perhaps, the photograph as a "window" is of particular interest here: the glass can give our reflection—almost like a shadow—as we see our image on a surface. We can also see the image of ourselves as if beyond the surface, while still reflecting back at us. We see ourselves and our surroundings reflected in the surface and, at the same time, ourselves as part of the scene viewed through the window. The reflected image in a window can indicate to us the transitory nature of the self: as the light changes on the glass so does our image in sharpness and density of reflection, and just as it appeared it may, as readily, cease to exist. [59]

When we "pose" for a photograph—a portrait or self-portrait—we have in mind both a self we wish to "project" to others and one we wish to "protect" from an intrusive gaze. At the same time, there are pictorial limits to what an image can convey and, thereby, pass down as a legacy of the self. There is, then, a complex dynamic between the "pose" formed within the photograph and what can be discerned in the act of looking by the viewer:

"Through the pose, then, and this is where the productive tension of self portrait photography resides, the embodied subject is exposed as being also and at the same time a mask or screen, a site of projection and identification (themselves dynamics that are synaesthetic and embodied)" (JONES, 2006, p.50). [60]

Is there, then, a sense in the formation of the "pose", that we are not only protecting and projecting the self (or selves)—but also endeavouring to "preserve" a sense of self for future retrieval at later points through our memory, and leave a lasting legacy for others? The photographic portrait is, therefore, an "internal", "external" and an "eternal" document—to ourselves, to others, and to those to come.37) [61]

11. Epilogue: The Use of Photographic Portraits in Research38)

Until the early to mid 1980s, apart from a few examples, such as BECKER's well-known discussion of connections between photography and sociology (BECKER, 1974, 1982), an occasional research study (e.g. MARSDEN & DUFF, 1975), and an attempt to explore photography's relationship with the humanities (PARRY, MACNEIL & MACNEIL, 1977), there had been a dearth of social research interest in the employment of visual images. Today, in both sociology and anthropology, visual materials (photographs, film and video, etc.) are becoming essential components of research, publication and teaching. But, as part of this expanding interest, it would be worthwhile for social science researchers considering the use of photographs, to study more closely debates within photographic criticism and practice, for instance, surrounding both "traditional" and more contemporary photographic work in social documentary and portraiture. [62]

The various approaches within social documentary, especially the use of "photo book" and "photo essay", should be reviewed in more detail for what they may contribute to the means and "output" of social science investigation (e.g. on questions such as text-image relations, "realism", and the representation of social issues and social environment). The study of individual and group portraiture (across photographic genres) would have a number of possible consequences and lead to certain advances in narrative and biographical research. For example, such close study would give an added sensitivity to photographic ethics and aesthetics (e.g. comparisons between "candid" or "posed" images); reveal issues surrounding "genre" (i.e. the characteristics and development of photographic traditions, such as portraiture); would give a more subtle attention to the complexities of place—how individuals are "located" and interact with their social and physical circumstances; and would enhance understanding of "representational" issues—the differing and nuanced ways photographs may be inserted within, and interplay with text (various kinds of text, captions, notes, formal documents), as well as other imagery. [63]

An examination of documentary photography and photographic portraiture would foreground the connection between research practice and "outcomes" and social/political context and its representation (i.e. the form of "document" produced and its reportage/publication/audience).39) While such a broader context is necessarily often noted in the study of lives, it tends not to be strongly pursued as it might be in biographical and narrative investigation and publication (and in much other research) (see STOTT, 1973; GUIMOND, 1991). In relating how individuals interact with each other and with their social context, a sensitivity to questions of representation and careful interpretive thought is required in using visual materials. By way of an example, it would be instructive for social science researchers to consider Walker EVANS's photographic work in the 1930s, including a comparison with other documentary photography (e.g. other FSA photographers and current social documentary work), since different photographers can produce quite dissimilar "styles" and effects/meanings in representation, when engaged in the same subject matter, including individual and group portraiture. As STOTT (1973, pp.268-269; see also EVANS, 1982; GALASSI, 2002) says:

"Evans does not 'expose' the reality he treats, he reveals it—or better, he lets it reveal itself. He does not seek out, he in fact avoids, the spectacular, the odd, the piteous, the unseemly ... In short, he records people when they are most themselves, most in command, as they impose their will on their environment. He seeks normal human realities, but ones that have taken a form of such elegance that they speak beyond their immediate existence. The realities are the material of his art, which he calls 'transcendent documentary photography': the making of images whose meanings surpass the local circumstances that provided their occasion". [64]

The "traditional" criticism of 1930s documentary photography, some inspired by more recent postmodern influences, is that it offered a simple "realism" (and a "liberal humanism") showing the "personal" (i.e., in individual or group portraits) and the "specific" (the immediate social situation) but lacked the essential societal dimensions of power and ideology (see HARPER, 1998). This view of 1930s documentary, as exhibiting an "uncritical realism", is being challenged by authors showing the relevance of a broader range of documentary work at the time and drawing attention to its "sensational modernism", "surrealist realism" and other elements (see ALLRED, 2010; ENTIN, 2007; ROBERTS, 1998; WALKER, 2002, 2007). This reassessment has implications for how social science research approaches the use of photographs in showing the complexity of "realism" and "documentary". Perhaps visual anthropology, or visual sociology, should not be too fearful of a charge of "realism" (as only using or assuming images as "mere" record), on the one hand, or of tending towards the "detachment" of "art" on the other. Instead, it should perceive "documentary" as a range of "styles" (as produced in the 1930s)—informed by personal, aesthetic, sociological, political, etc. influences (see EDWARDS, 2006, p.28) which contain differing notions of "documentary"/"record" and "art", "real" and "fictional", etc.—which in practice are not always clearly separable. The important point for qualitative methodology is to be aware and reflective concerning these differing definitions or tendencies and their varied usage in photographic and other "artistic practices" (or in "art-research") when conducting studies. Finally, as BALL and GILLIGAN (2010a) argue, (more generally) there are "parallels" or "symmetries" between social science research and "visual arts practice" but, as they point out, this recognition raises a whole series of questions concerning the relationship between the two: for instance, whether the different practices and use of the "image" are comparable or, if dissimilar, can be brought together. [65]

The use of photographic portraiture (and social documentary) in biographical and narrative research should keep in mind that self-images are both "constructions" and their meanings, are at least in part, "elusive". The forming of a "pose"—what is being presented and what is being "masked" by the individual; how memory and re-viewing ("recurrence") operate; and the elapse of time and experience, effect how photographs are perceived. The range of senses, associated events and social relationships, and ongoing self-formation, all impinge on how we "project" ourselves in, "look" at, and respond to portraits. In short, social researchers should be aware of the "provisional" nature of the image—how it has been formed in photographic practices and social relationships, cultivate a "sharpness" in how it is being employed (as perhaps "illustrative" of a small textual point or of a wider theoretical view, as a source of information, or as a basis for inductive conceptual formulation, etc.), consider possible audience perceptions, and have some understanding to its broader cultural, historical and social shaping or context. [66]

There are a number of broad issues that need to be taken into account when considering the use of photographic self-images in social research (see BALL & GILLIGAN, 2010a; RIESSMAN, 2008, pp.141-182; HURWORTH, 2003):40)

  • The nature of the photograph: Photographs should be recognised as both "representative" and "material" objects. So, as researchers, we should ask what a particular photographic portrait "tells us"—as both a "record", a "unique" individual portrait and/or as "representative" of others (in class, gender, etc.).

  • Memory and time: Researchers should keep in mind the complexities of memory and time in using photographs. Photographs "preserve" or "stimulate" memories in various ways and affect current experiences. Photographs are not simply "visual" in memory but are experienced according to our "moods", all the senses, and current preoccupations; they appear to arrest, collapse, or extend time through content and memory.

  • Photographic genres: Photographic "genres", e.g. documentary, street, and portrait photography, are "impure", due to overlapping in content and formal description. Portraits and self-portraits can be taken by the researcher, requested of the "researched", or jointly made with the individual or a participant/group (as in participatory/collaborative research). "Found" photographs (e.g. taken from an archive, or from family albums) may be used in some research (or as the main object of the research itself). A photographic archivist may also be required in some research.

  • Equipment, skills, and training: Questions regarding the standard of equipment, skills and training and thereby, the "quality" of photographs, required in the research can arise. A professional photographer may be needed to advise, assist or take the research photographs to meet the research objectives. Of course, it may well be that "quality" of production is not particularly important. So, research choices have to be made on how photographs are obtained, and who by, according to the advantages/disadvantages for the proposed research, in terms of its objectives, ease of procurement, cost, etc.

  • Use of photographs: Photographs have various uses in research, for example, to aid interviewing or as part of conceptual formulation/induction; they can be related to text and other imagery in multiple ways, or be part of the investigator's "research diary" and act as an "aide memoire". In assisting interviews, it is probable that different memories or detail of memories are elicited by looking at specific photographs rather than from viewing a number together as a collection (as in an album). Decisions have to be made regarding the context and timing of the photographs—and reasons for these decisions. Later, a choice has to be made on which photographs to select (and why) for further work and presentation.

  • The interpretation of photographs: A wide variety of interpretive approaches can be used—but, reasons are needed for choosing a particular interpretive procedure. It is clear that a complex relation between theory "construction" and "application" exists. Photographs may be used for more "illustrative" than "inductive" purposes. Also, the research "subjects’'" understandings of the photographs used and the researcher's (and audiences’) may differ. Finally, researchers should remind themselves that interpretation is multiple and shifting—according to changes in interpretive approach, research purpose, and movement in the researcher, "subject" and audience perspective. For example, a researcher returning to material after a period of time might "find" fresh insights. The interpretation of photographic images can engage all the senses.

  • Photographs and narrative: Commentators have pointed to both differences and similarities between photographic self-images and the individual texts according to narrative interpretation. One major question concerns whether the interpretation of portrait photographs and the production of the narrative research text (separately/together) "fragment" or "unify" the self? Where photographs are used not only in relation to text(s), but also in connections with other media and material objects (which may be produced by research "subjects")—further layers of complexity in narrative formation and interpretation are added.

  • Legal and ethical issues: Here are very important questions of "consent" regarding photographic images, including: who can be photographed and under what conditions or safeguards; the restrictions on use of existing private, archive and public photographs; and where photographs can be taken, stored (and who has access and on what basis) and presented. Particular care is needed in taking and using of personal images and information to adhere to legal, institutional, and professional, etc. procedures and rules.41) [67]

In the end, despite all the possible uses and interpretations of the photographic images of self (taken by ourselves or others), there remains something profoundly enigmatic about the photographic portrait:

"In a very real sense, the photographic portrait conforms to the hoary legend that it steals something of the sitter's soul. Certainly, the chemical imprint of a fellow human being's physiognomy has a potent talismanic quality. It is capable of immortalizing and creating myth. It can confer acknowledgment and bestow dignity. It can also stereotype, debase and dehumanize" (BADGER, 2007, p.169). [68]

Appendix



Illustration 2: Brian ROBERTS—Photo booth 1, 1971 (ROBERTS, 2011) (Footnote 8)



Illustration 3: Brian ROBERTS—Photo booth 2, 2003, from original 1971 (ROBERTS, 2011) (Footnote 8)



Illustration 4: Portrait of Brian ROBERTS, mid 1980s (ROBERTS, 2011) (Footnote 17)



Illustration 5: Portrait of Brian ROBERTS, early 1980s (ROBERTS, 2011) (Footnote 17)

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Jane WHITLEY.

Notes

1) This "self-portrait" photograph by me was taken on a seaside promenade. It is intended to give some indication of the complex practice of photography and the nature of "the photograph", to be considered in the article. For instance, in terms of the "overlap" of photographic "genres", this photograph could be regarded as not only a self-portrait but also a "landscape", and to some extent an "abstract" image. It contains two "mirrors" (polished metal sculptures), one in front of me and one behind—and I appear twice. Interpretively, the picture could be seen as commenting on the role of photographer and the nature of the photograph as follows: the promenade railing (and my shadow) indicates the past (with each "oblong" formed by the railings seemingly a separate "snapshot", like a film strip), while there is a (lesser) perspective going out across the beach to the sea and horizon giving a "future" orientation. "My present"—taking the photograph (seeing the world through the camera and the mirrors)—and my "past" and "future", are given as reflected and refracted experiences. As I appear twice, the photograph could also be taken as indicating the "fractured" (or "doubled" in representation) nature of the self. <back>

2) The main orientation of this article is not only towards how we see portraits of self but is also concerned with how we take and see portraits of others. The discussion of "time" and "narrative" in this article develops ideas found in ROBERTS (1999, 2004a). The content of the article has been inspired by a number of photographers, especially by the (very different) work of Claude CAHUN, Francesca WOODMAN, Alexander RODCHENKO, Dorothea LANGE, and Gerda TARO (see ALLMER, 2009; ARROW, 1985; COHEN, 2009, pp.69-88; DYER, 2007, pp.105-111; GORDON, 2009; JONES, 2006; LANGE, 1982, 1995; LAVRENTIEV, 2008; PIERINI, 2009; SCHABER, WHELAN & LUBBEN, 2007; TOWNSEND, 2006; TUPITSYN, 2009; and WHISTON SPIRN, 2009). The article has also been influenced by AGEE and EVANS's "classic" "social documentary" "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" (2006 [1941])—for example:

"It seems likely at this stage that the truest way to treat a piece of the past is as such: as if it were no longer the present. In other words, the "truest" thing about the experience is now neither that it was from hour to hour thus and so; nor is it my fairly accurate 'memory' of how it was from hour to hour in chronological progression; but is rather as it turns up in recall, in no such order, casting its lights and associations forward and backward upon the then past and the then future, across that expanse of experience" (p.215). <back>

3) I have deliberately used a broader notion of "portraiture" than the "standard" idea of a "commissioned" picture by a professional photographer (acting on behalf of a publication) taken in a studio or the subject's home (or workplace, etc.) commonly to gain some "inner insight" ("character", "personality") into the individual (n.b. the historical dimension to this aspect in painting, see WEST, 2004, pp.29-37). Of course, the more common "professional portrait" is for individual or family (e.g., a graduation, wedding, etc. picture), or professional record. I realise the approach in the article is "inclusive" and open to the charge that "portrait" here refers to any face (or part of the body) within a photograph, which may have been taken for a wide variety reasons, and so, beyond the confines of "formal portraiture". Thus, included are self-portraits (by anyone), "professional" or non-professional takers, photographs requested or not (i.e., "candid") by the subject, portraits within a group, and portraits serving a variety of "functions" by the subject/taker. We must keep in mind, therefore, that "portraiture" is a wide category, interweaving with other photographic "genres" and not just the dedicated "studio" portrait (itself diverse), and may contain the face or fuller figure of one or more people in a photograph context. For WEST, the distinctiveness of the painted portrait from other genres is the "presence of a specific person" (or their image), their possible involvement, the "relationship to likeness", and the "diversity of its forms and functions" (2004, pp.11-13). At least in painting, it could be argued, that self-portraits have been more varied and intense in facial expression and "revelatory" in bodily pose, than a portrait (CUMMING, 2009, pp.4, 8).The "commissioned" photographic portrait itself is very wide in scope (in context, use of props, light, pose, relation between taker and sitter, etc.) and taken for various reasons. A comparison between well-known photographers demonstrates the diversity and development of "the commissioned"/ "professional" portrait (see, for example, the work of Bill BRANDT, Irving PENN, Henri CARTIER-BRESSON, and Annie LEIBOVITZ). A very useful network which seeks to encourage understanding, research methodologies and interpretation of portraits in all media in British museum and gallery collections (e.g. the National Portrait Gallery) is UNDERSTANDING BRITISH PORTRAITS (2010, see http://www.portraits.specialistnetwork.org.uk/). Invaluable sources on all aspects of photography are: MARIEN (2006) and LENMAN (2008); for a short but very informative overview, see EDWARDS (2006). For brief reviews of photography in Britain in the last thirty years see BATE (2009), BARNES (2009), for a short account of changes in printing technology, see DENISON (2009). For more general surveys of current issues in photography see: PERES, OSTERMAN, ROMER, STUART & LOPEZ (2008) and WELLS (2004). <back>

4) The photographic portrait—at least the self-portrait—it could be argued (that historically) it has been similarly relegated to a secondary status like the painted portrait (see CUMMING, 2009). I realise that there are a number of issues that are not addressed in the article. For gender and self-portraiture in art and photography see, for example: ALLMER (2009), JONES (2006, pp.35-79), and WEST (2004, pp.145-185). I would have also liked to discuss, here, portraits in family albums, how "remembrance" and emotion are fostered by framing and adding "art" or "artefacts to portraits (e.g. cloth, jewels, text, hair, etc.) (see BATCHEN, 2006; HOLLAND, 2004; SPENCE & HOLLAND, 1991), and also "group portraiture" (see KOZLOFF, 2007, pp.201-69, and, in painting, WEST, 2004, pp.105-29). The family album is a complex entity—it may comprise several "genres", including travelogue, thematic record, formal portrait, etc. and, it can be argued, is (commonly) meant to be "performed" or accompanied by an "oral" commentary (see LANGFORD, 2001). The "traditional" family album is also related to home movies/videos, slideshows, photographs displayed on walls and furniture, digital photo frames, and images stored on computer and phone, etc. (see CHALFEN, 1987). I have not been able to pursue portraiture within the "construction" of the "self(ves)" or "expression/presentation" of "subjectivity" more broadly in the history, and (especially) in contemporary areas, of wider "visual culture" (see DOY, 2005). In addition, I have not considered the psychology of "attractiveness", the literature on "body language", and emotion and facial expression (n.b. the early use of photographs by DARWIN in his book on emotions, 1872), in viewing the "pose" or interaction with others (and any associated gender, or historical, cross-cultural issues)—or interactionist and related perspectives in "presenting the self" in interaction (c.f. GOFFMAN, 1970, 1971) (see ROBERTS, 2006). Finally, I have not included an examination of the large fields of symbolism and iconography in portraiture (see FREELAND, 2010, pp. 50-58), e.g. whether the orientation of an individual's expression is towards one or other of the four quadrants of a picture, each of which may carry different implicit meanings , for instance, perhaps looking top right signifies "transcendence" (or the future, or fragmentation and loss/overcoming of the self, c.f. KORDA's famous portrait of Che GUEVARA), while the bottom left quadrant may indicate "materiality" (or past, or degeneration of the body/self). <back>

5) See RIESSMAN (2008).The "visual turn" is, of course, only one of many such "turns" (perhaps, merely "development" would be a better term) in the last thirty years: cultural, linguistic, spatial, body, time, narrative/biographical, performative, digital, sensual/emotional/communicative turns, etc. While "visual studies" was emerging in the 1970s, influenced in part by visual anthropology, sociology was also having a major input into analysis of "visual culture" via the rise of "cultural studies", e.g. the work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, U.K. on communication (see HALL, HOBSON, LOWE & WILLIS, 1980; HALL, CLARKE, CRITCHER, JEFFERSON & ROBERTS, 1978). Research on the media (e.g., TV news and current affairs, newspapers, magazines) was also taking place in other university research centres (Leicester, Glasgow) in the UK in the 1970s. All the many "turns" can be regarded as part of particular attempts to understand important social changes: but these changes should be seen as interrelated and part of more general societal shifts. The various "turns" also indicate not simply a movement towards the need for greater interdisciplinarity in the social sciences, but a wider theoretical and methodological "opening up" to developments in the arts and sciences, to understand, for example, how we conceive time and memory. As with the recent attention to the "senses" (c.f. HOWES, 2003, 2005), I would argue, a consideration of "consciousness"—across the arts, social sciences, and sciences—would be a means of linkage between the analyses of the subject matter of the various "turns" (see ROBERTS, 2006, pp.134-53) and contribute to revealing their collective significance in societal change. This article, obviously in a very small way, has attempted to explore some of these points of interconnection—an effort continued in ROBERTS (2010, 2011) through the interrogation of two school photographs, according to time perspectives, memory and my childhood development (in intellect, sensually, and consciousness of the social world). <back>

6) The notion of "visual studies" covers a wide range of areas within the social sciences which have different backgrounds and focus. BALL and GILLIGAN (2010a) usefully distinguish and describe a number of "key terms" (visual technologies, visual communication, audience, scopic regimes, visuality, visual medium, visual research methods, visual analysis, and visual research methodologies) and identify different approaches (visual culture, visual methods used to explore areas of fieldwork, the study of conversation, text and other forms of communication, audience studies, and infographics, the visual display of non-visual data). For a critique of "visual studies" and recent assumptions about "visual culture", see MITCHELL (2005, pp.336-56). <back>

7) It is notable that major sociology undergraduate texts are now filled with photographs and other illustrations and, of course, the common use of computer assisted overhead projection has made the inclusion of such materials in teaching and other presentations much easier and routine. <back>

8) Portraits and self-portraits may be taken for one purpose and then used for others. For example, a black and white picture (Illustration 2, see the Appendix) I took in a photo booth of myself in 1971 for a university student union card, I altered much later (Illustration 3, see the Appendix), with the advent of digital technology, by adding background colour (n.b., it is also reversed). At various times I have put the latter version of the image on a T-shirt and mug, displayed a copy in my room at work, and placed it on a FACEBOOK profile—perhaps, to show a previous "self" and social identity as a "long haired (early 1970s) student radical?" For a discussion of photo-booth photographs, see KOZLOFF (2007, pp.75-77). <back>

9) For further examples of recent and re/published older work, see: BROOKMAN (2007), DAVIDSON (2006), DOUGLAS and DOUGLAS (2009), GRIFFITHS (2008), HAINES (2008), KONTTINEN (1988, 1989), McCULLIN (2007), PARR (2009), RAY-JONES (1990), SARGENT (2009), SPENDER (1982), STEELE-PERKINS (2009), PATTISON and PEACE, 2010; STOKES (2007), TATE LIVERPOOL (2006), WILLIAMS and TEASDALE (2009); rather different but of related "documentary" interest is NORTHERN GALLERY OF CONTEMPORARY ART (2009).A major impetus to the "revival" of social documentary (or "photo-documentary") work in Britain was the social dislocation, industrial decline, recession and high unemployment in the late 1970s and early 1980s (see ANDERSSON & WISTROM, 1977; BADGER, 1988; MELLOR, 2007; KILLIP, 1988). In particular, the year long and very bitter national Miners' Strike, 1984-5 in the UK against pit closures brought newspaper and photo-agency "reportage" (including portraits) in commentaries on the strong police action (supported by the Thatcher Government) against striking miners and their communities and the history of the strike (see ADENEY & LLOYD, 1986; STEAD, 1987). The strike was unsuccessful and was followed by an almost complete closure of mines in the UK. It is important to remember the range of community and other groups (in oral history, documentary, political activism, feminist photography, etc.) founded late 1960s to early 1980s that have influenced "photo-documentary" in the UK (e.g. Amber, Queenspark). There is an issue of definition here regarding similarities and differences between "reportage", "social documentary" and "social documentary 'style'", which concerns "fact", "truth", "aesthetics" and "politics", etc., see BADGER (1988), KOZLOFF (2010), MITCHELL (2005, pp.272-293), and STOTT (1973, pp.267-289), on (respectively) KILLIP, KLEIN, EVANS and FRANK. <back>

10) See, for example, LANGE (1982), LEE (2008), MORA and HILL (2004), SHAHN (2008), WOLCOTT (2008), and for general overviews: ALLRED (2010), COHEN (2009), ENTIN (2007), GUIMOND (1991), JEFFREY (2008, pp.204-243), MARIEN (2006, pp.276-288), and STOTT (1973). Roy E. STRYKER, who directed the photographic work of the FSA (Farm Security Administration) from 1935, was an economist who had previously made extensive use of photographs. The work and life of Dorothea LANGE, in particular, is undergoing renewed attention and reassessment—in terms of the "aesthetics" of her photographs (i.e. according to her "realism" and "humanism"), and the "politics" of her photographs and photographic practice. Her "classic" photo-book, "An American Exodus" (1939) (with Paul TAYLOR), and her "reports from the field" are still of interest for social documentarians (e.g. the relation between photographs, and also between photographs and types of text, including quotes, description, and background or "found" materials) (LANGE & TAYLOR, 1939; see GORDON, 2009, pp.277-286; WHISTON SPIRN, 2009). <back>

11) For example, W. Eugene SMITH's work with Life (MORA & HILL, 1998; see, also LENMAN 2008, pp. 478-479 on the photo-essay; ALLRED, 2010, pp.167-197 on Life; and HALL, 1971, on Picture Post). For a history of the "photo-book", see PARR and BADGER (2004, 2006), and for "photojournalism" magazines in Europe in the 1920s-30s see LENMAN (2008, pp.488-92). The yearly INTERNATIONAL FOTOBUCH FESTIVAL held in Kassel (Germany) is dedicated to all aspects of the contemporary photobook—content, production (e.g. digital software, print on demand, etc.), and dissemination (by the Internet, mobile phone, etc.). <back>

12) For "humanist documentary", such as the work of CARTIER-BRESSON, DOISNEAU, and others, see LENMAN (2008, pp.173-9), ASSOULINE (2005), GAUTRAND (2003). <back>

13) FRANK (2008a); see also BROOKMAN (2007), DI PIERO, GASSER & HANHARDT (1994), FRANK (2008b), MITCHELL (2005, pp.272-293), KLEIN (2010 [1956])—KLEIN was a sociology major; his photographs of New York were originally intended for Vogue (LADD, 2010). It is interesting how FRANK in "The Americans" (2008a [1958]) selected and arranged photographs and, thereby, organised several main "themes" (e.g. religious and national symbolism) (see GREENHOUGH & ALEXANDER, 2009). <back>

14) There are similar issues here in the character of "documentary film" from the 1930s onwards. Documentary film is also a complex field incorporating a range of input from the arts (e.g. Surrealism); connections between experimental film and ethnographic film should also be noted (see ROBERTS, 2008; RUSSELL, 1999). <back>

15) Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras and monitors. Interestingly, the idea of "CCTV" can be found in the early 19th century—with a notion to link the operation of a camera obscura (viewing the street) to a police station via the telegraph (see JENNINGS & MADGE, 1987, p.164). <back>

16) It could be argued that we see ourselves more often, than say thirty or forty years ago—and so, can be encouraged to "self-monitor" our appearance more regularly. Here, there is a possible issue of the effects on self-perception in seeing ourselves more frequently in mirrors, in photographs on computers, mobile phones etc., and on CCTV monitors (e.g. in shops) ,and taking (and sending via mobile phone or social networking Web sites) more self-images, in contemporary daily life, e.g. regarding "body-image", "ageing", etc. For a short socio-historical overview of the connections between the body, image, and emotion, and for early photography's attempt to "visualise action", see COMAR (1999) and MILLER (2010). The inclusion of the body in a portrait is an interesting topic. In painting, the full length portrait emerged historically. EWING argues that in the latter years of the twentieth century the main attention in photography was on the body as a whole, but the current "swing" back to the face was "inevitable" (noting the present sophisticated "rejuvenation" and "restructuring" of the face by developments in cosmetics and surgery) (EWING, 2006, pp.10,12, see also NAIRNE & HOWGATE, 2006). Of course, an area of considerable growth and of interest to sociologists is "face recognition" and "biometrics" due to their emerging social consequences (ethical, legal, relational) of such technology, n.b. the issues that will arise if links between our mobile phone cameras, face recognition technology and web (networking) sites and databases are made. <back>

17) There are deeper considerations regarding the properties of the "mirror" (or other surfaces, e.g. metal objects, water), in terms of "reflection" and our perception, than I am able to discuss here. For example, mirrors "reverse" a face, can distort (e.g. by being to various degrees convex or concave, or irregular), and may give off a surface "sheen". For a recent discussion of the "mirror" in painting and photography, see CUMMING (2009, pp.134-149; REXER, 2010). I have also not included an account of any technical "properties" of the camera in producing an image via mirrors, optics, and technology (e.g., light and colour sensitivity, etc.).

Not only may a photograph be considered a "mirror" but also actual mirrors often feature in portraiture (both in painting and photography). Mirrors provide angles to view objects not seen directly by the camera but also, as in Illustration 4 in the Appendix (a portrait of me), raise interpretive dimensions, such as notions of past and present within the "same" image (i.e. the reflection in the mirror as a past image, the near person image as the "present", representation; see also Illustration 1 and Footnote 8).

An associated case (to the above on mirrors in portraits) is the depiction of photographs (or other images) within other photographs. In Illustration 5 (in the Appendix), I am posing (in the 1980s) for the camera while engaged in viewing slides of myself and others (obviously, too small to see in detail)—again touching issues of time and memory, i.e., posing for a current representation while viewing past images. Of course, an added "interpretive layer" (as for Illustration 4, in the Appendix) is viewing the photograph now. A further time dimension is the age of the artefacts (including images, another photograph or painting) in the picture—also, the person may be within a particular historical site. Thus, there are a number of possible "time frames" at work associated with a single photograph. <back>

18) Of some relevance here is FREUD's article on "Screen Memories" (2003) and later discussion in media theory concerning the notion of the "screen" as "mediating"; for an account in relation to self-portraits see JONES (2006, pp.49-52). Also of interest is psychoanalytic discussion of voyeurism and fetishism, narcissism, desire and pleasure; "gaze", and the development of the ego (c.f. LACAN's work and FOUCAULT's ideas of the "clinical gaze" and "panopticon", etc.) as used in recent cinema, art and photographic theory (see HENNING, 2004; FOSTER, 1996, pp.138-42, 209-12; JONES, 2006, pp.55-62). For example, the portrait photograph can be considered not merely a means for social "surveillance" but also for "monitoring" the self, one that becomes distanced from us. Here, I am not discussing whether the photograph as a material object is a work of art "in itself" (as a "screen", in the sense of a canvas, fresco, board, etc.) but still possibly also a referent to, but separate, from the "reality" it portrays. While the photograph can be regarded as a "screen", so can a person and their representation in a photograph. The "screen" may be the skin itself, with the intentions of expression, the camouflage of make-up, the exhibition of tattoos, etc..—it is a surface, a canvas that "communicates" (see FINNEGAN, 2002, pp.98-100); for the notion of "mask", "disguise" , "camouflage", or the (partially) "hidden", in portraiture, see BRILLIANT (1991, pp.112-15), JONES (2006, pp.35-79), KOZLOFF (2007, 95-8), LEACH (2006), WEST (2004, pp.206-10), and see, in particular, the photographic self-portraiture by Man RAY (see HEITING 2008, pp.22-24; see also Claude CAHUN, Francesca WOODMAN and Cindy SHERMAN). There is a possible important complication here: is it the photograph itself (the square, rectangle digital image or print) that is the "mirror", "screen", etc., or the outline image of self in the photograph, or both? <back>

19) SZARKOWSKI (1978) used the ideas of "mirrors" and "windows" in relation to photography in a well known exhibition. RITCHEN argues that another "analogy", "beyond mirrors and windows" ("static rectangles")—the "mosaic"—describes digital photography as part of a "larger array of dynamic media" (2009, p.70). <back>

20) See, Michelangelo ANTONIONI's film "Blowup" (1966) (see GARNER & MELLOR, 2010) in which the leading character (a fashion photographer) attempts to solve a "murder mystery" by repeatedly "blowing up" (enlarging) a photograph he has taken in a park—to find physical traces and meaning. A famous photograph by Lee MILLER, "Portrait of Space" (1937; see HAWORTH-BOOTH, 2007, p.137), with a view looking out from a canvas desert shelter, neatly demonstrates the photograph as mirror, screen, and window. This image contains an oblong frame like a mirror against a transparent fly mesh/screen; lower down there is a rectangular, window-like hole in the mesh, more clearly showing the desert's horizon beyond. The photograph may not merely be about the framing of "space" (the desert) but could also be indicating MILLER's psychological outlook at the time (HAWORTH-BOOTH, 2007, pp.133-139; see also CAWS, 2009, pp.34-35; ALLMER, 2009, p.161; BURKE, 2006, p.129, p.187). The shelter itself may be likened to a "double" of the photographer's own body (and/or "eye") who is looking out on the scene: "the inside and outside are separated only by the skin-like membrane of the screen" (CONLEY, 2009, p.52). A related theme is explored by Francesca WOODMAN in her autobiographical photographic portraits of the body "dissolving" into or "emerging" from space (CONLEY, 2009, pp.48-52; DYER, 2007, p.217; PIERINI, 2009; TOWNSEND, 2006; and see also the work of KLEIN, 2010 [1956]). <back>

21) An effect of the self-portrait (in photography and painting) may be to put us, the viewer, in the subject's position—as though seeing the image as he/she did staring back or even observing us; while also, seeing a person as a "person", face-to-face, and then as an image (CUMMING, 2009, p.6). <back>

22) The British Journal of Photography is regarded as the world's longest running photography magazine, established in 1854. Perhaps the oldest photographic society still in existence is the Leeds PhotographicSociety (UK), founded in 1852. Interestingly, possibly the oldest surviving pieces of film in the world were taken in Leeds in 1888, by camera and projector pioneer, LE PRINCE (CERAM, 1965, pp.141-142, 161-3) and The Leeds Library is the oldest independent "proprietary subscription" library in Britain, founded 1768. The National Media Museum, containing an important photographic collection (including the world’s oldest negative), is located in nearby Bradford. <back>

23) For a discussion of the forms, functions, "likeness", "generality of type", and the rise of self-portraiture (in relation to the use of the flat mirror, a new self-awareness, self-narratives, and the artist's status) in late 15th and 16th century art see, WEST (2004, pp.43-69, 164, 179); see also, MILLER (1998), REBEL (2008), RIDEAL (2005, pp.23-29). A recurring theme in the history of photography is the individual portrait as part of a "typology" (see ESKILDSEN, 2008). The "classic" example of the "typological" approach is the work of August SANDER who collected portraits of occupations and classes (KOZLOFF, 2007, pp.180-191; MARIEN, 2006, p.289); see also the later portraiture work of Irving PENN on "small trades" (HECKERT & LACOSTE, 2009). PENN was a major innovator in studio portraiture (see KEANEY, 2010). <back>

24) Narrative analysis is very broad with a number of approaches; for example, RIESSMAN outlines thematic, structural, interactional, performative and visual types (2005, 2008, 1993); see also ROBERTS (2002, 2004b), NARRATIVE INQUIRY (2006, 16[1]), QUALITATIVE INQUIRY (2007, 13[4]), BROCKMEIER and CARBAUGH (2001). It is also used in connection with other methods (e.g., action research and ethnography) and theoretical orientations (e.g. phenomenology and psychoanalytic theory). In particular, a number of "biographic-narrative" approaches have been developed (see ANDREWS, DAY SCLATER, SHELLEY, SQUIRE & TREACHER, 2000; CHAMBERLAYNE, BORNAT & WENGRAF, 2000; HOLLWAY & JEFFERSON, 2000; WENGRAF, 2001). Narrative approaches differ in their conceptualisation of selves and identities (see SMITH & SPARKES, 2008). <back>

25) By "sense" of self we are, therefore, describing ourselves across the "senses"—our awareness of "our-self" in the world—thus, differentiating the idea of "self" from more "formal definitions of identity(ies) (husband, parent, academic, etc.). <back>

26) More generally, in our daily living, we see diverse combinations of text and photographic portrait image all around us—in street advertisements, newspapers, magazines, Web pages, on identity badges in the workplace, etc. We are adept at "reading" these complex text-image relations, selecting how we understand them, and providing our own meanings. Our relationship with this "saturated" world of "text-image" is an important feature of some photographers' work (e.g. "street photographers", such as KLEIN, 2010 [1956]). <back>

27) Photographs (possibly with video and other visual materials, art installations, poetry, diary and creative writing) either taken by the research "subjects" themselves or in collaboration with the researcher and photographer, are increasingly being used alongside biographical/ narrative interviews and autobiography—as part of ethnographic/ participatory action research, for example, in studies of "social transition" (migration, life course/generational change) (see O'NEILL, 2008; Timescapes). For recent use of photographs and other visual materials in a range of research see KNOBLAUCH et al. (2008b); JONES et al. (2008); and BALL and GILLIGAN (2010b). For some work on migration by professional photographers, see SMYTH (2010). <back>

28) For further discussion of the relation between photographs and written texts ("everyday storytelling" and narrative inquiry), see HARRISON (2004, and the "Commentaries" that follow the article). Complex combinations of photographs, handwritten notes, postcards, objects, etc. have been used in autobiographical work by artists (c.f. photographer, Robert FRANK's work, see BROOKMAN, 1994). Of course, "experimental" combinations of portrait/body, text and landscape (often "psychedelic") by collage, etc. were pursued in 1960s art (as readily seen in rock album covers, posters, etc., see GRUNENBERG, 2005) and have origins in Constructivism (c.f. RODCHENKO, see LAVRENTIEV, 2008; TUPITSYN, 2009). <back>

29) I am "loosely" following GOFFMAN, here on the "self"—as an ongoing attempt to "unify", an "essential fiction"—searching for meaning both within a beyond routine and ritual (GOFFMAN, 1971; see, ROBERTS, 2006, pp.62-79; COHEN & TAYLOR, 1978). FREELAND (2010, pp. 243-290) usefully discusses three artistic practices in portraiture (post World War II) in relation to the self—the self as "disappeared" (e.g. Andy WARHOL, Cindy SHERMAN), "confessional art" (e.g. Nan GOLDIN, Tracey EMIN), and "art using scientific technologies" (i.e. brain scans, DNA printouts, etc.)—which seem to support the post-modernist challenge to the unified, moral, aware, self within traditional portraiture. In each, she says, the "traditional self" can be seen—"(P)ersons and selves do still exist ...". She adds, there is still something "mysterious and philosophically perplexing"—the "paradox of portraiture": "how can something that is an artefact or object ever succeed in capturing a person who is a living being, a subject" (p.290). <back>

30) For histories of portraiture in painting and photography, see: BADGER (2007, pp.168-198), BRILLIANT (1991), CLARKE (1997), ESKILDSEN (2008), KANZ and WOLF (2008), HOLLAND (2004, pp.113-158), REBEL (2008), RIDEAL (2005), VANN (2004), WEST (2004), WOODALL (1997b). <back>

31) The discussion of "memory" and "fantasy" in this article draws upon ROBERTS (2007); for a broad account of memory in biographical research, see ROBERTS (2002), and for a short account of "fantasy and remembrance" in relation to photography, see EDWARDS (2006, pp.112-128). <back>

32) An issue here is whether a single photograph, or several photographs together in juxtaposition, or sequence, contain a "narrative(s)"—and so could "stand alone" or with little commentary or interpretive/explanatory text in presentation (as can be the case in a "photo-book"). Alternatively, it may be argued, that rather than a "narrative", it is the overall "mood" or "outlook" that is produced both within individual photographs and in how they are placed together that is "revealed" (see, KOZLOFF, 2010, on KLEIN). At work here may be different notions of "narrative". It is possible to consider photographs in numerous ways from the technology employed, the social context of taking, the likely intentions of the taker and subject (or user); the pictures themselves (including via narrative, discourse, semiotics, interactionist, feminist, "humanistic" or other perspectives), and audience reception theories, see RIESSMAN (2008), GILLIGAN and MARLEY (2010).FREELAND (2010, pp.162, 188-194) questions "narrative theories of the self" when discussing self-portraits, in terms of three problems: "connection", "closure" and "explanation" and further argues that self-portraits may show more about the self than covered by narrative (theory). FREELAND argues that self-portraits are visual not verbal and use distinctive metaphors and symbolism, relate to "social traditions" of representation and "display"; and individuals are "embodied beings" and may move in physical space in ways not encompassed by "linear narrative". <back>

33) The association between the image, the shadow or reflection and death, illness or the soul goes back into folklore tradition, e.g. the turning of pictures (or photographs) of people to the wall when there is a death in the house (see FRAZER, 1987, pp.189-194). (In our house, as a child, we did not have any photographic portraits displayed, fearing that showing images may bring illness and death—at one point, all the negatives of family photographs were intentionally burnt). When we look at the camera as a "subject" we sit or stand still and "accept its gaze"—setting ourselves to be "frozen" in the past. But is there also a sense in which this frozen image is a "legacy" (of which we are aware); it continues to be viewed (by us and those who come after us) and reinterpreted. Of course, the question of "time" has been long recognised as inextricably part of photographic practice and interpretation, for example, SZARKOWSKI in his famous exhibition "The Photographer's Eye" (1964) identified "Time" as one of five "issues" in the "history of the medium" of photography (SZARKOWSKI, 2007 [1966]). Taking or looking at a photograph can place one as "engrossed" or "out of time" (from the present) in consciousness and can also, as argued following this article, take us between time perspectives in memory and reflection. Currently, some photographers, it seems, are attempting to find ways of "depicting the future or even capture a time that precedes the medium itself" (WOMBELL, 2010, p.30). To what extent, can we say, that every photograph—perhaps, especially the portrait—(while taken in a "present") to varying degrees foretells the future and represents the past of its content? If this is so, then the photograph is not simply a "frozen" representation or "capture" of a scene or face—a "still", an ‘instant'—but, an "ongoing moment" (DYER, 2007). <back>

34) Both, the sitter for the painting and for the photograph can be considered to be "performative" through expression and posture—by providing a "version” of themselves, by imitating or attempting to represent another real or fictional character, by giving some other conception they have which they seek to relay; by responding to the painter or photographer and his/her encouragements and directions; and by having in mind the reception of the portrait by an audience (including themselves) (see CUMMING, 2009, pp.150-165). <back>

35) The idea "recurrence", broadly, raises the question of the relation between time perspectives and deeper mental states (than simply, "mood") and could be compared with the Freudian notion of "repetition", where for example: "Under conditions of repression, the repetition-compulsion establishes a fixation to the past, which alienates the neurotic from the present and commits him to the unconscious quest for the past in the future" (BROWN in COHEN & TAYLOR, 1978, p.49). But in this article there is not an intention to take from a "deeper" Freudian perspective. For a very brief account of "phantasy" in psychoanalysis, see SEGAL (2000). This discussion of recurrence develops ideas in ROBERTS (2003). For a discussion of "epiphanies" or "turning points", see DENZIN (1989). <back>

36) The terms "recurrence" and "reconsideration" are used by MATZA (1969). <back>

37) The idea of "protecting" while also "projecting" a sense of self in the "pose" could be developed further with reference to SIMMEL on "secrecy" and GOFFMAN on "secrecy", "expression games", "presentation of self", "back and front regions" and "face work", etc. (SIMMEL, 1906; GOFFMAN, 1970, pp.51-56; 1971, 1972; see ROBERTS, 2006, pp.62-79). <back>

38) In this article, I have not been able to review in detail the very extensive and diverse "field" of photographic portraiture today (and its main concerns, e.g. issues of representation, authenticity) including areas such as: celebrity; fashion; news; art and performative; informal and family; formal and studio portraiture; and portraiture or representation of the "self" connected to film, video and web based imagery (see, for example: BRIGHT, 2010; EWING, 2006; FRIED, 2008; JONES, 2006; KEREN, 2005, 2006; MARIEN, 2006; PINK, 2006; RITCHEN, 2009; RUSSELL, 1999, pp. 275-314;WELLS, 2004; WEST, 2004). <back>

39) Apart from the areas of portrait photography, and documentary photography outlined above, qualitative social researchers should also consider other "genres", even work in urban landscape photography in which people feature little, but instead, the "structures" of living are shown (c.f. work in the vein of "new topographics", see SALVESEN, 2009). <back>

40) Social researchers seeking to use and interpret portrait and other photographs will find recent art and photographic criticism especially valuable (see, for example, CUMMING, 2009; DYER, 2007; FRIED, 2008; MITCHELL, 2005), including work on the impact of digital technologies (see, for example, RITCHEN, 2009). Such work commonly raises technical, aesthetic and social dimensions of an image; for an "accessible" starting point combining photographic history, and biographies of photographers and examples of their work, see JEFFREY (2008); see also, more centrally on portraiture, ARDENNE and NORA (2004), CUMMING (2009), KOZLOFF (2007), ANGIER (2007). Of course, there are numerous photographic magazines which provide relevant discussion (for example, see: BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY, 2010; SOURCE, 2009 and PORTFOLIO, 2009) and a number of "academic" journals on visual areas, including a number specifically on photographs (see PHOTOGRAPHIES; HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY). <back>

41) Legal and ethical issues regarding taking, using, and presenting photographs in research require very careful consideration. For example, photographers in the UK have become increasingly concerned about legal and police restriction of photography in public. (Conversely, there is also unease about the police use and retention of photographs of the public.) The use of personal images and information on the Web (e.g. social networking sites) raises complex and very important legal and other issues of privacy and disclosure, correction and the longevity of information, and regulation. <back>

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Author

Brian ROBERTS has research interests in narrative, biography, communal identities and photography. He co-edited with Kip JONES et al. FQS (2008). Special Issue, Performative Social Science, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/issue/view/10.



Contact:

Brian Roberts

Visiting Professor of Psychosocial Research
Psychosocial Research Unit
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

E-mail: Broberts1@uclan.ac.uk
URL: http://www.uclan.ac.uk/schools/iscri/pru/brian_roberts_pruprofile.php

Citation

Roberts, Brian (2011). Photographic Portraits: Narrative and Memory [68 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(2), Art. 6, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs110263.



Copyright (c) 2011 Brian Roberts

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