Reading self-portraits in a psychological interpretation means, first of all, going to research the reasons that led the artist to produce his work. Almost always the author goes through a process of introspection and self-analysis, aimed at understanding his inner world, to deepen deep psychological dynamics, to elaborate painful experiences.
In the article The functions of the self-portrait in painting and photography I told of how the different intentions of the author, give life to as many types of self-portraits. Today I would like to deepen what sees the Self-portrait as a grieving process.
The link between photography and death
If we wanted to look for the origin of the portrait, surely we would find its roots in the funerary art, where often the deceased is represented with a live image. Just think of the beautiful Fayyum portraits in Roman Egypt, a series of very realistic portraits made on wooden planks covering the face of some mummies. If you think about it, the pictures on the tombstones these days are the fact that they have passed down this same intention over the centuries.
But the link between photography and death is as if it were already inherent in photography itself: it evokes death when it blocks and freezes life in its free flow. What else is a photoshoot, if not killing a moment that will be gone?
On the other hand, however, the self-portrait expresses all its strength in the need to be safe from death. Creating a footprint of our passage becomes concrete proof that I exist and that I will survive it.
The self-portrait as a grieving process deals directly with the relationship that one has with death, whether one’s own or that of others.
The example I’m going to talk about now is an example of how the use of photography and self-portrait specifically was a way to start processing the loss of a loved one.
Self-portrait as a grieving process: Moira Ricci 20.12.53 – 10.08.04
Moira Ricci is a Tuscan photographer from the province of Grosseto. In 2004, while working in Emilia Romagna, she was recalled home for the sudden death of her mother. Right away, feel the urge to search for all the photographs in which her mother was portrayed to insert herself into the image to be close to her. Her work was born in this way, 20.12.53 – 10.08.04, the dates of birth and death of her mother. She was driven by a great desire to go back in time and be able to tell her mother to watch out for what could happen to her that damn day.
In concrete Moira takes all the photos of his mother and finds the way to create a new photograph with her image inside that directs the look towards the mother. Every photograph is taken care of in detail, she studies the pose, the clothes to use, the light, the shadows and through Photoshop she creates images in which it will be difficult to recognize the truth.
Even his family will look at these photographs at first without noticing her presence. It’s only by looking at all the work that we get hit by this girl’s face looking for her mother’s gaze.
Through this work, Moira psychologically encounters the emotions that will allow her to begin processing loss, with the experiences of desperation, anger, resignation, and detachment.
In my opinion, it is a work of unique power, both from the creative point of view and because of its significance. It’s amazing how perfectly Moira’s image is inserted into the context of the photo. So much so that, if we did not know, we would confuse the figure of Moira as belonging to the original shot. A universal theme that unleashes in us a strong emotional experience, made of fear, anger, loneliness and much more. Emotional tension in Moira’s look at her mother.