Category Archives: 11 Self-absented portraiture

Anna Fox

Anna Fox is a well-know British photographer and professor at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham and was shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. The video below features Anna Fox telling the viewer a little about her major projects that have spanned her photographic career thus far. As Fox explains in the video, she presented the Cockroach Diary in a very personal way. The work is presented in a sleeve containing two little books. The photographs are featured in a separate book, while the diary itself is in a spiral bound book containing scans of Fox’s actual diary, giving it a very authentic feel. Due to the speed with which cockroaches move, Fox had to shoot using an autofocus camera, which she is not used to as she normally shoots medium format. Although the photographs feature cockroaches and their traces, the narrative is more about the family and friends living in Fox’s house at the time and their dysfunctional relationships. It has both comic and sad elements to it.

In Cockroach Diary the insects serve as a powerful abject symbol for all the anxieties, fears and conflicts that erupt among the members of the household, a social discord openly revealed through pages of the diary Fox kept at the time, a facsimile copy of which forms part of the book.

Mark Durden, Foto8


I really like the idea of her whole presentation and would be interested in actually seeing this work in the flesh.

Reference List

Durden, Mark (2009). Anna Fox: Photographs 1983-2007 [online]. Foto8 The Home of Photojournalism. Available from: [Accessed 10 November, 2015]

Impressions Gallery (2010). Anna Fox / Cockroach Diary & Other Stories / Impressions Gallery [vidcast, online] 01/09/2010. 14 mins 23 secs. (Accessed 10 November, 2015)


Fano, Niccolò (2013). ASX Interviews Anna Fox (2013) [online]. American Suburbx Magazine. Available from: [Accessed 10 November, 2015]


Exercise: Nigel Shafran

For this exercise we are asked to go to Nigel Shafran’s website and look at his series Washing-up as well as his other work.  Shafran’s Washing-up project can be seen here.  Although our course book talks about the captions that accompanies the images in this series, Shafran’s website does not feature them unfortunately. I did, however, find a site that featured a few images from this project with the accompanying captions, but when I went to access it today it had returned a “not found” message. Nevertheless I managed to find another blog that features three of Shafran’s images with captions: tiltshiftblog, which hopefully will still be around come assessment time.

  • Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

I had come across this series when I was doing TAOP, and I do remember feeling quite amazed that a man would take photos of such a domestic scene. I think its a cultural perception that many of us have grown up with – that men don’t do housework, that cooking and dishes are women’s work. Thankfully that perception is changing though as we no longer have a sole breadwinner in the family, rather both man and woman need to go out and scrape together a decent living in this expensive world we live in. But there are parts of the world where this perception is still very much alive and well.

  • In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I think it does. Men and women see things differently and even if they both photograph the same subject, the end result would look completely different as a result of their different points of view and perceptions. I very much doubt that I would take photographs of my kitchen sink. Quite by chance today one of my fellow students, Richard Brown, posted this video about this very subject of different perceptions on the OCA Photography Level 1 Facebook Group.

  • What does this series achieve by not including people?

There is a sense of mystery created in this series by not featuring people. Even without referring to the captions, one is intrigued by the ever changing scenario around the sink, of the changing light – varying from natural light to fluorescent or tungsten to the little clues left that suggest the previous hours’ activities. With the captions such as “16th march 2000. 1.30pm Second photograph of the day. Breakfast crumpets and tea [mine with cottage cheese and honey, Ruth’s with Marmite with Jose and Claudio who I think washed-up]” though, we are left wondering what the meals looked like and who and where were the people eating them. As such it is a highly personal space, reflective of the people who live in that space. They do say that the kitchen is the heart of the home. By not including people in his images, Shafran is leaving the interpretation open to the viewer and creating more questions in the viewer’s mind than there are answers.

  • Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

When I first saw the title of the project, I can remember thinking to myself – who on earth would want to create a series on washing up? But once I started viewing the images they began to grow on me. I was intrigued. The images were cheerful, humerous (in one of the images someone has taped the initials N and R behind the taps over the sink, maybe as a joke indicating that N = hot and R = cold). The “N” would be Nigel Shafran and the “R” would be his wife Ruth. It could very well be meant the other way around. The route one could take with signified and signifier here could be very interesting. Even though most of the photographs are taken from the same view point, the landscape changes continually and I think it is this variable factor that makes these compositions extremely interesting.

Reference List

Canon Australia. THE LAB: DECOY – A portrait session with a twist [vidcast, online] 03/11/2015. 3 mins 16 secs. (accessed 05/11/2015)

Reganechase (2012). Nigel Shafran, Washing Up [online] Tiltshiftblog. Available from: [Accessed 5 November, 2015]


Nigel Shafran. Washing-up 2000 [2000] [online].  Available from: [Accessed 2 November, 2015]

Sharon (2015). Still Life with Nigel Shafran [online]. WeAreOCA. Available from: [Accessed 2 November, 2015]

Sophie Calle (again)

I tend to find Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself body of work more autobiographical than Maria Kapajeva’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Woman. Calle’s photography, film and text renditions are all based on a very personal break-up email from her partner and is cathartic in nature. Using 107 women to put one’s ex firmly in his place is quite revolutionary to say the least. Kapajeva’s work is more open and could also be interpreted as straight portraiture of different women. I researched Sophie Calle in more detail earlier in the course, so will keep this entry brief.

Reference List

Research Point: Sophie Calle and Sophy Rickett [online]. Available from:

Maria Kapajeva

In this section of the course we are to look at the self-absented portraitures of a few photographers.  A self-absented portrait does not feature the photographer in a literal sense. The photographer may choose to use stand-in instead  might choose not to have anyone in the image at all.

Maria Kapajeva is an Estonian born photographer, currently working out of the UK. She emigrated to the UK, giving up her job and flat, attended the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham and is now on staff there as a tutor and researcher. As an immigrant myself, I can totally relate to her statement in Photoparley (2014): ‘It’s not easy to be Other and become someone in a foreign place.’ This is so true. When one emigrates, one leaves behind everything that is familiar and by coming to a new country one is the stranger, the interloper who has to learn to fit in and learn the culture of the  new country. This is not always easy.

I was quite intrigued with Kapajava’s statement regarding methods of working.

I think there are two ways of working as an artist (at least I see these two): one is you start from a technique and develop / master/ transform it. The second way is to start from an idea and find a technique for it.

Kapajeva (Photoparley)

I think I mainly use the second method as well, although with my last assignment it was probably a bit of a combination between the two. It will be interesting to see how this pans out for me down the photographic road.

Kapajeva’s project A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman features portraits of fellow immigrants who are her peers and with whom she identifies.The series of images can be loosely termed self-absented portraits in that Kapajeva has expressed something of her own experiences, struggles and emotions in each portrait. The women reflect something back to the viewer about Kapajeva.

Her work on Indian arranged marriages in Marry Me is quite fascinating, especially if one takes the remarks of each girl photographed into consideration. The concept of an arranged marriage is quite foreign to me and one which I find is rather strange. I had a young Indian colleague whose parents were pressurising her to get married. They had even uploaded her photo and details to a marriage website where interested parties could make contact with each other. I guess one has to grow up with that kind of a culture in order to understand it fully. It is, nevertheless, interesting.

Reference List

Boothroyd, Sharon (2014). Maria Kapajeva [online] Photoparley. Available from: [Accessed 1 November, 2015]

Maria Kapajeva. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. [online] Available from: [Accessed 1 November, 2015]

Maria Kapajeva. Marry Me. [online] Available from: [Accessed 1 November, 2015]