Saturday, January 2, 2010


We all do it - self-portraits that is - whether we use reflection or shadow as our means or merely extend one arm outward as an organically connected tripod.

Lydia Pola Self-Portrait
Self-Portrait, holding Polaroid SX-70 Alpha, Encino, CA 2006

This is the image that I use the most online as the photographic representation of me (it's the image that greets you here on my blog, and on my flickr and twitter feeds) is a self-portrait that I shot in one of the bathrooms of my house. I like bathroom light, sometimes it reminds me of candlelight and it's usually a little softer and moody and the mirrors usually provide nice soft fill light. Holding my beloved Polaroid SX-70 Alpha in one hand, I used my other hand to hold my Polaroid SLR 680 SE and take the photo. I had to try it several times to get the expression and framing just right. I like how my eye connects with the viewer and that my expression is sexy and assured. I'm wearing no makeup whatsoever - what you see is what you get - natural me. But there are some tricks too, by using a slightly higher angle, I get more definition around the jaw line and eliminate any double chin. I like this picture the best because it distills me best as how I see me.

The reason I bring up self-portraits is that yesterday I saw The Sum of Myself: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection at BCAM (Broad Contemporary Art Museum). The exhibition's last day is tomorrow, January 3, so I urge you to go this weekend. LACMA & BCAM have a great pay what you wish policy after 5pm, so you can even go for free or a slight donation.

Strangely, BCAM doesn't have an actual webpage devoted to the exhibit, but if you go here, you can scroll down and find a blurb about it. There's also a link here to the Irmas' collection online that has more info and photos.

What really struck me about the collection is the extra creativity people have when photographing themselves. Nearly all the shots represent truly thinking outside the box. Plus it's a chance to see prints from amazing photographers including Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe (represented in a self-portrait as a young man in drag and in a second intense portrait near the end of his life when ravaged by AIDS), Andre Kertész (the master of working with distortion from mirrors), Catherine Opie, William Wegman, Diane Arbus, Weegee, Walker Evans, and Lee Friedlander (whose buzz cut shadow self-portrait on the back of a woman's head and fur coat was pure genius). Honestly there's so much incredible work in this exhibit that it's the kind of show that gives me the good kind of headache that comes from inspirational overload.

Here are a bunch of my self-portraits:

Lydia Warhol
Self-portrait, costumed as Andy Warhol for Halloween, Woodland Hills, CA 2006

Self-portrait, top of a boulder at Stoney Point, Chatsworth, CA 2009

Self-portrait, ornament on the Venice Canal, Venice, CA 2008

Self-portrait, mirror in antique shop, Oatman, AZ 2009

Self-portrait, mirror at Bagdad Cafe, Amboy, CA 2009

Self-portrait, reflected off a building at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA 2009

Self-portrait, mirror on trolley in Beverly Hills, CA 2009

Self-portrait, Stoney Point, Chatsworth, CA 2009

Self-portrait, shadow behind Tom's Welding, Barstow, CA 2009

And here are some self-portraits on display in The Sum of Myself: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection at BCAM (Broad Contemporary Art Museum).

Clockwise from top: Nan Goldin, Self Portrait in the Mirror at the Lodge, Belmont, MA, 1998, Diane Arbus, Self Portrait in Mirror, 1945 (detail), Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1988. All images in this post: The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection
(Image pulled from the LACMA blog UNFRAMED)

Bruce Nauman, Study for Holograms, 1970, Catherine Opie, Self Portrait, 1993
(Image pulled from the LACMA blog UNFRAMED)


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Lydia Marcus said...

thank you anonymous, whoever you are :-) i appreciate the feedback tremendously.

i guess i'm just getting better with age ;-)