The Brief: ‘Identity’
Using ‘Identity’ as your theme, create several images which explore aspects of your self. Use these images to illustrate a small (A5) booklet. Think laterally. Avoid the obvious. Go beyond the superficial. Be imaginative and inventive. Use any media you like – photography, drawing, textile, collage, etc. – to explore and develop your visual ideas. Work through the design process to explore your theme.
Generating ideas: Draw a range of visual and conceptual possibilities using ‘Identity’ as your starting point. Aim to produce at least twelve thumbnail sketches.
I started by doing a Spidermap in freely and quickly drawn in pencil, then I grouped elements by colour using marker pens. I revisited this map and reworked it as I went along, in parallel to development of thumbnails and visuals.
I further refined this, focusing on personal identity.
Drawing on all the ideas then swirling in my brain, I did a series of thumbnails for different elements that appealed to me. These focused more on personal identity than the other elements of ethnic identity – though I returned to some of these later.
I also annotated these thumbnails, and the development of these as I went along (see below). unexpected links and associations.
Review and selection
From these thumbnails I selected three sets of ideas that I thought could hang together as a series (though the others would also have been possible):
- Identity cards
- Me and my Family
- My sense of social identity.
Research and development
I did further research and thinking on each concept, going back to my reading and the spidermaps.
I then collected the photos and did some mockups on my iPad.
Idea Set 1: Identity Cards
This first series was an initial exploration of how I felt about ‘me’. I collected together all the passport photos I had, and started to think which ones I thought were ‘me’ and which were not, and why this was so. Generally the ones I liked were those which showed me as more conventionally attractive – less like a convict terrorist or a naked hen. I was also interested in the visual dynamics of sameness and difference – what is the eye looking for in deciding what is and what is not ‘identical’?
The first three images looked at the effect of a large contact print using one photo, experimenting with different numbers of photos in each row and black and white versus colour. I found my eye searching for differences in the identical pictures. Using the photo where I had felt most constrained and stripped bear ie ‘not me’, I also experimented with mixing black and white and coloured versions of the same image in different patterns, and just replacing one image of ‘me’, and placing it at different points. I then started to mix the images in rows or columns, and black and white versions. Then making patterns with the same image. Of all these experiments I found the black and white image 2 most striking – with its narrow distance between the images, and the almost ghostly look of the original. In the end I got a bit tired of playing around – I was not really sure what it was I wanted to say. And decided to move on.
Idea Set 2: Family identity
The second set of ideas were around family identity. Again I gathered some photos of me and my family, considering how I felt at the time they were taken.
In the end I decided to focus on my relationship with my mother – using a photo of her one of the last times I saw her before she died. She was suffering from dementia and looking really lost as I had taken her shopping to a familiar store, but was leaving her sitting in the cafe to try some clothes on. I found a photo of me that I thought I could mix with this and experiment with Photoshop Blend Modes.
Pending idea 1: Fractured Identity
I started to find this process of exploring self-identity quite painful. And it would be difficult to really probe without a lot more time to go beyond the cliche. But it led me to think a bit further about ides of personal identity and ways I might take things forward around concepts of ‘fractured identity’ as a series of Picasso-type linocuts. But focusing on mixes of myself and other family members.
Pending idea 2: Zen here and now
A different extension of this concept of personal identity could take things into the realm of the Zen ‘here and now’, maybe using drawings and ink for some of the images.
Idea Set 3 Social Identity
This final set of images went back to a less personally sensitive exploration of social identity. It was also partly a playing around with the software programme Graphic on my iPad, and linked to my professional work on gender identities. As I was doing this exercise I was watching news of conflicts in Congo (where I was due to go) and also Burma, Egypt and Syria on Al Jazeera, seeing the very negative consequences of rigid ethnic identities. And the ways that male ethnic identity/group hysteria play themselves out in the rape of women and the subsequent rejection of those women by their families and community.
My selection was this final set of images. Leaving the other ideas for possible further development in Assignment 4.