A3 Self portrait rework

This assignment has been very hard to rework. For ages I thought I’d written the rework post, but I hadn’t, only posts nibbling around the edges of possibility. 10 months on from making the work I am reminded that I’m booked for a hysterectomy in January. It is incredibly personal work and I need to acknowledge my closeness to it. Looking at the contact sheet does not encourage a hard-nose editor response, rather a sentimental spin cycle of thoughts about no more babies, no more periods, no more uterus, no more uselessness for 10 days every month. Please note that all screen grabs are copyright Clue (www.helloclue.com) and that Tampax is a registered trademark of Tambrands, owned by Proctor & Gamble.

I am going to submit three square prints from the three different points in my circle, with an A3 grid of the entire cycle included for context. I had made a fold-out book (see video) but struggled with the conflict between the secrecy of the period and the cyclical nature of it. The pop out secret day versus the daily reality of the 26 day cycle. I don’t want to submit three different pieces of work for the same assignment so am dropping the book and including the grid purely for context – the three prints are the primary submission.

There is something very difficult about submitting self portraits for assessment, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the work that’s being assessed, not the quality of the model. I tried to take a playful approach to this work, rather than deadpan – think Juan Pablo Echeverri rather than Roni Horn. It’s definitely more towards the photobooth/passport photo end of the spectrum than the painstakingly constructed portraits by Roni Horn.

The grid is important to this work because it shows how the menstrual calendar overlays the normal calendar in unexpected ways.  If I could do anything differently on this work it would be to start the work on day 1 of my cycle and to pay scrupulous attention to the background. As it was, ideas and biology didn’t align, and I started the work on day 6 of one cycle (starting in February) and finished it on day 5 of the next cycle, in March. This means that in calendar terms my images of days 1-5 came after my images of days 6-26, as the images span two menstrual cycles. I have therefore adjusted the grid so that it starts on day 6, and tweaked the labels so that they include both calendar and cycle days. A couple of images have been replaced following up on tutor feedback and my own preferences. I was hoping for either a 25 or  28 day cycle, to provide a neat grid of images but again biology didn’t agree and served me up a 26 day cycle.

The selected three images are presented as single bordered prints on 8×8 inch paper.  The square format feels right for this work, it is rooted firmly in the iphone app space and most of the images were shared on Instagram as they were made. A phone screen proportionned portrait orientation did not feel right so I cropped to square. The images are shown at 5 inches square allowing for a 1.5″ border all around. The source images are quite small (960px square) so I set the resolution to 192ppi and placed each image on an 8×8 canvas at the same resolution.

Image selection is made bearing in mind feedback that I received from two tutors. It’s a bit of a leap of faith, I’m not sure that my selection would be exactly the same. I followed my tutor’s comments that the images that worked best were the ones without excessive digital manipulation and the ones that had a visceral quality to them.  I found that in the real world outside the coursework bubble people enjoyed the juxtaposition of a scowl and the International Women’s Day splash screen, whereas the parameters are different for choosing images for assessment. I reconsidered all my images and made a new image for Day 1 out of a previously rejected image.

The fundamental contradiction between looking unobserved/non-performative whilst making a self-portrait is still one that bends my mind and I wonder if it might be better to go for the performance route. Is a self portrait still a self portrait if it looks like someone else took it? Does it matter? What happens if someone else takes photos of me that looks like selfies? There’s still some understanding to be done on agency.

Finally, presentation. Although limited by the small size of the images there are several options that could be worth exploring further.

  • Handmade star book where the covers fold back on each other to form a book with no beginning or end and all the images exposed around the outside.
  • A slide carousel that will display the images continually and automatically. There’s something about the regular “clunk” and the rotation of the carousel that appeals here.
  • A View-Master reel – though there could be problems with the text at small image sizes you do get the idea of a continual cycle
  • A curved wall or a small circular gallery where the viewers can walk around the cycle indefinitely


Hauserwirth.com. (2018). Artists — Roni Horn — Images and clips — You are the Weather — Hauser & Wirth. [online] Available at: https://www.hauserwirth.com/artists/images-clips-view/?artist_id=14&a=roni-horn&p=104 [Accessed 20 Apr. 2018].

Juanpabloecheverri.com. (2018). SUPERSONAS • JUAN PABLO ECHEVERRI. [online] Available at: http://juanpabloecheverri.com/supersonas/ [Accessed 20 Apr. 2018].

3 thoughts on “A3 Self portrait rework

  1. sarahdandrews December 15, 2018 / 7:16 am

    I recall this work so well Kate. The final selection works well. I especially like the turmoil of emotion and whirl of physical and hormonal ups and downs captured in the first and third images. I wish you well for January and for your recovery.

    • Kate December 15, 2018 / 7:46 pm

      Thank you so much Sarah. It feels odd to have work that is so closely coupled to reality, this will all go into the post a couple of days before I go in for surgery. I do feel for the assessors… I sent them pregnancy tests last year and they had a miscarriage project the year before. Good job UVC is a theory course 😀

      • sarahdandrews December 15, 2018 / 8:31 pm

        Extremely important topics Kate!👏👏

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