When considering my subject of Self Image, Insecurity and Self -Loathing for Assignment 3, I instantly thought back to images I’d seen by Charles Latham from a series entitled Cyrus (2006) in Auto focus: The self-portrait in contemporary photography. In the book, Bright describes the creation of this series (three images total), as occuring after Latham, in response to the break up of a relationship, posted photos of himself enacting self-harm online. The heated response provoked Latham to find a more constructive means of investigating the source of this impulse, and this resulted in the creation of Cyrus, an imaginary friend. Latham projected onto Cyrus his insecurities, feelings of self-loathing, and anxieties as a means of personifying these aspects of himself with which he was struggling, essentially creating an abject Self.
In the photographs, Latham poses himself as mediator between Cyrus and the viewer, making the images less confrontational, and giving them a sense of ‘dealing with the issues at hand’. I think that the creation of these images acted as a form of therapy for Latham, helping him to either conquer his demons or at least to better understand his impulse to self harm. By essentially taking on a character, Latham has removed narcissism and ego from the equation and created very considered images which portray a relationship between the different sides of Latham’s self.
Have these images, or the process of making them provided Latham with any form of catharsis? Did they stop him self harming and help him achieve a better state of mind? I don’t know. I hope so. Finding anything out about Latham is hard work. Regardless, I’m not sure that Cyrus provides me with any real inspiration because I feel that my own aims for Assignment 3 are quite different from what Latham wanted to achieve in his photographs. I specifically want to project my insecurities on to myself as a viewer, or to other viewers of the work and am not creating the work for catharsis, but as a means of confronting a truth that thus far, I’ve been trying not to admit. It would have been very easy to dismiss Latham at this point, but just because I didn’t find inspiration in Cyrus, I still found it very interesting, and so dug a little deeper.
Latham is a difficult man to track down. He does not seem to be a photographic artist in the traditional sense, but I did manage to find his website and Instagram account. (unfortunately I couldn’t find any interviews or transcripts). There are many self-portraits on both sites, and despite any form of text or explanation, there is a general undertone of Self Image with references to excessive weight and obesity. From the visual language used in the images, I get the a sense that Latham is using his later self portraits as a form of self-acceptance of his Body Image and size, rather than as a vehicle for change, as opposed to earlier photographs in which he appears shameful of his increasing size.
This earlier image of Latham (on the right) speaks of a shame and/or submission to weight/appetite or even temptation. The masterful pose of the headless figure tells me that the physical body is in control of the mind, that Latham has all but given in to being a slave to food. I feel that there is a significance in both subjects occupying an equal half of the frame, and that is has something to do with a relationship and an equal level of responsibility for the situation. Despite there being a lot of images on his website, very few are taken in this format. The majority are square format Instagram photo’s of found situations, but which are evidently very well considered and composed.
The 3 photo’s above are almost self exploratory. They are taken from angles not normally seen by the naked eye or in a mirror. To take such photo’s and publish them on social media is very brave and, if the author is indeed trying to accept his size and weight, then they are almost re-affirming to the world how he visualises himself. Interspersed amongst these images are a lot of photographs of food such as this one:
The foodstuffs range from Burgers to Ice Cream, to Waffles, to McDonalds. The things that they all have in common is that they are unhealthy, fried, high in sugar and stereotypically American. Again, given the Social Media tool used to create these images, and their distribution amongst self portraits, they communicate a self-acceptance. That he is a product of fast food, consumerism and American culture. This is reaffirmed by other, absented self-portraits which include signifiers such as weighing scales.
But where do these fit into my Assignment? For a start, I look at them and feel a slight fear. I see what I could become, not only fat, but accepting of the matter. They therefore work in regards to my own intent so I could see myself producing something similar, but without the element of acceptance. I would need to create photographs that shock me into action.