Gillian Wearing is a British photographer and is best known for her series of street portraits made in 1992-3 where she approached strangers and asked them to write their thoughts or feelings on a sign, which she then photographed. The results were quite revealing considering that British people are known to be quite reserved.
Her self-portrait series, Album, consists of photographs of Wearing masquerading as her family members. She used old family photos as reference points and created silicon masks of each family member, even of herself at different ages, which she then wore to make her self-portraits. Apart from the fact that the masks are really quite smooth, which are fine for the younger family members, but a bit of a give away for the older generation, they are quite realistic and it’s only upon close inspection that one notices the cutouts around the eyes that something is amiss. Then I find the images become a little creepy. The cutouts are more noticeable on some images than others. The only way Wearing is expressing herself is through her eyes. Some of her images can be seen here.
According to Susan Bright (p. 43) ‘the disguise offers a liberating escape from the ‘self’, and the masks and the slippage of identities revel the thin line between reality and fantasy.’ By exploring her identity in this way, Wearing is paying homage to her family members with which she shares her DNA – a little part of them is a part of her too.
Bright, S. (2011) Art Photography Now (2nd revised edition). London: Thames & Hudson
Adams, Tim (2012). Gillian Wearing: ‘I’ve always been a bit of a listener’ [online] The Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/mar/04/gillian-wearing-whitechapel-gallery-feature [Accessed 3 October, 2015]
Wearing, Gillian. Maureen Paley Gallery [online]. Available from: http://www.maureenpaley.com/artists/gillian-wearing [Accessed 3 October, 2015]
Zuckerman, Margaret (2012). Gillian Wearing Wearing a Mask of Gillian Wearing [online] Daily Serving: An International Publication for Contemporary Art. Available from: http://dailyserving.com/2012/04/gillian-wearing-wearing-a-mask-of-gillian-wearing/ [Accessed 3 October, 2015]