Self Summary

Who are you? What sort of person do you think you are? What sort of person do others see you as? Every day we make ourselves who we think we are; who we want to be; or who we are expected to be. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, every day we dress to create an image, a persona. But what is behind this façade of personality? If we take away the decoration, the uniforms, stereotypes, and the social and cultural statuses all those are signifiers for, what is that separates one person from the next: Who are you really?

For Self Summary I gathered a group of volunteers to explore these thoughts. I asked my participants to strip away their usual external persona, to literally appear naked; no clothing, no jewellery, no makeup; just them in their own human body. I brought these individuals into photographic studio, an environment designed specifically to be neutral - so that it might be moulded into any vision, but in this case I maintained the innate neutrality of the studio, making it a blank canvas in which I could place my own made-blank participants.

Here my volunteers were given two ways to reclaim themselves: Everyone was to choose a single word to summarise themselves. I left the choice of word entirely to them, instructing them only that it should represent as honest as possible who they are. It could be a description, a label, an identity, an emotion, anything; but crucially it must be what they consider to be the summary of what is truest them. Their choice of word was manifest as a large cut-out, something they could hold, interact with; a way to make their inner-them a physical reality; taking the place of what they normally express in their day to day outer façade. 

The second way they could express themselves was in their physicality. In each shoot the participant and I would discuss their choice of word, how they chose it, what it means to them, and generally who they are as individuals. Through these discussions my participants emoted, gestured and acted out who they are, what they are, and how that boils down into their self summary. This is what I captured. 

These are the results; my participants, with their chosen self summary, arranged alphabetically by their choice of word. Beside each photograph is a page from a notepad - At the end of each session I asked my participants to write down something about who they are, and what their word means to them; this itself a summary of the discussion and exploration of them throughout the shoot. 

No one word can truly summarise a person, and this is not the intent; this series explores our perceptions of self. I asked my participants to take away their usual external persona, but the word replaces this. The difference is, that the word is considered; when asked to summarise yourself in a single word the results are enlightening: What might seem like the shallowest choice of word, is revealed to be deeper than the most pretensions, or visa versa. Some individuals are revealed to be entirely aware of who they are, while others, even when given the chance to so carefully consider it, turn out to be completely naïve about their own individuality. From the vain to the timid, the confident to the unsure, or unknown, Self Summary explores who we think we are. 

All content © James Grigg, 1992-2020, unless otherwise noted.