Blogs are slightly exhibitionist in nature. Written from a very personal point of view by the owner, blogs represent the opinions, likes and dislikes of their writer. He or she determines the nature and the overall impression through the style and contents of the posts and has full control over the “image” that is created. Photographic (self-)portraits are the graphic equivalent to a written post, I suppose.

A self-portrait – so here I had full control over the image, thank Scott!

This control over an image is what interests me – after an interesting recent experience. Strictly speaking, the rights to a photograph belong to the photographer, no matter what. He has created the image, has directed the shoot and has told the sitter how to pose. He has literally “made” the picture. In an ideal setting, he has also got a signed model release form which entitles him to publish the photo as he sees fit. For your sitter that means that they have no say in how the photographer digitally enhances the image. Strictly speaking, the photographers could do what they want with it – within the parameters of what is morally acceptable, of course ;-).

But that is where the warped human sense of self comes in. We always see ourselves much different from how others see us. And we may not be enamoured by a representation that another has created of us. That is a crux I experienced recently. And something that I had to learn the hard way when I sat for a friend and was unsure about the resulting pics. It took me a while to come round to seeing the picture only as a momentuous view, or one potential facet of the larger complexes complexity that is me. The whole episode was quite instructive for me – from both the photographer’s point of view who had to deal with an overly sensitive sitter, and from the sitter’s point of view who had to accept the complete lack of control over the final image.

The aptly named upshot of the matter is: Do not shoot ladies from below. No, kidding, that isn’t it. The conclusion is that it helps to discuss with your sitter that the image rights are yours, that you may be putting it through a post-production process that may change the look and feel of the image/sitter – and that there is no personal comment intended in that. Oh, and it helps if you are nice, too!

4 thoughts on “Self/Image

  1. etta

    Brilliantly put, Sonja!
    Having seen the photo in question, and having discussed this matter with you only a couple of weeks ago, made reading this even more interesting 🙂


  2. Sonja

    Thanks, Etta. The matter of (self)representation really interests me. And it even reaches into the more philosohocal realm of “What is (the) reality?”. Is what the individual sees him/herself reality, or is the reality objectively that what is perceived collectively by all? Photography (if you resist all temptation of digital manipulation) is a great way of exploring that.


  3. Sonja

    Danke Olga – das war tatsächlich ein Selbstportrait, so dass ich mich da mit niemandem über Auswahl und ggf. Veränderung streiten musste. Und, oh Wunder, es brauchte nur knapp 12 Versuche, bis es im Kasten war :-))



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