Brief: Make a list of some aspects of your personality that make you unique. Start taking a few pictures that could begin to express this. How could you develop this into a body of work?
1. What makes me unique?
Grayson Perry said, when talking about the ‘middle classes,’ that we all like to think that we are unique but our lives are filled with ‘petty vanities,’ like the type of coffee cups we have, which we use to display our individuality. We are looking at something deeper here in this exercise, but I think that it is hard to be accurate about our personalities. Like the ‘mirror-stage’ of visual identity development in childhood we do the same with our personalities which are reflected back to us as accurate or inaccurate pictures.
Here is a list of some attributes of my personality that I think make me unique, at least in my own little world.
- A good communicator – my wife told me that the other day. I agree with that as I am strong at verbal, visual and written communications.
- Responsible – if I say I will do something I generally do it unless I rationalise and decide not to do it
- Helping – I like to help people, but like all these attributes this is not binary help or don’t help.
- A heart for those that haven’t – more in another exercise – I have been working as a doctor with difficult people for many years trying to improve the deal that they get from health care services.
- Idiosyncratic – I offer a different perspective in meetings to many of my peers. A charity recruited me to their leadership team because they recognised that while I might have some stupid ideas or views I also had some good ones.
- Funny – I have a dry wit which people tell me they like. I have discovered years ago that not everyone is humourous or witty and also that they don’t recognise wit of humour when it is upon them.
- Positive – I think I have always been a half full or more full kind of guy. I am a realist but is rare that I am pessimistic about situations or things. Increasing I control negative thinking with CBT techniques, prayer and meditation. Perhaps it is also a feature of being older.
- Anxious – I am by nature anxious but, apart from those close to me, no one knows about the tension between my shoulders. It is rare that there is ‘leakage’ of this attribute, not that that worries me either, and I have made friends with it over the years.
- Directness – I can very direct and perhaps blunt in speech and writing. This is a blessing and a curse as sometimes it pays to ‘warm-up’ to a person, meeting or confrontation. One of my patients said to me recently; “When I want to be ‘stroked’ I go and see one of the lady doctors, but when I want a clear proper opinion I come and see you.”
- Reflective – by instinct I am a reflective person. My research career has been largely in qualitative research where reflexivity and personal awareness are important components of any research project and output. I like to pray and meditate and organise my relationships, thoughts and activities; there is no other way to live.
Enough of the inward looking: as Mary Poppins might say, “Practically perfect in every way!”
2. Taking pictures
I decided to take all my images on my iphone in the cafe where I am writing this. I am not sure what is possible here today but I like a challenge.
I use my hands a lot. I was rehearsing an important and complicated presentation for my business when one of my colleagues said, “Morris, you’ve stopped using your hands! It’s not you. You need to be yourself, the Morris we all know and love.” He was right and I loosened up and did a great presentation the following day.
I have taken a picture of me filling the frame – it is not a kindly look. I don’t particularly like the look of stare and sharp ‘statement glasses’ but that is what I look like without the softening words. Maybe I look scary?
This is hard to capture. I emptied my pockets and found two lottery tickets in my wallet. I thought that was ‘money wasted,’ made them into paper aeroplanes flying out of my wallet, like the money does. I could have made something different with the wallet contents but this was of the moment.
A friend who has just texted me with good wishes. I decided to ask her if I was funny and if so in what way? This is the screen shot.
This text is interesting because it picks up on some of my other personality attributes such as directness and being positive. Validation! There is something powerful about positive words like this especially from someone you love and respect. (She did not know what this exercise was about).
2. 5 Positive:
This is probably too obvious an image. It is cliched. I realise that it is cliched – may that’s a step forward in this module?
I hide this well and am not entirely happy with this image. Maybe drubbing my fingers on the table is better, but that is a bit cliched. Maybe the overturned sign on the floor outside is a better metaphor. I find this whole area of subtle representation (in photographs) of hidden things difficult but I think that this is growing as I make my way through the course. It is like learning a language, I think.
3. What I learnt – can I make this make a body of work?
This was an interesting exercise because it is not often that I ‘name’ aspects of my personality, although I keep in touch with the inner person every day. This is what I learnt;
3.1 Confinement can be liberating
I forced myself to do this whole exercise to this table in this cafe in a park in Birmingham with only my laptop, iPhone, the things I have with me and what I can buy or see at this site. It makes you look around and see what is there.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” http://petapixel.com/2014/03/11/50-photography-quotes-inspire/
I could have involved the waitresses or strangers to take photographs to illustrate my personality i.e. of me meditating, looking distressed, being helpful and smiling.
3.2 Many of these images are about the body as an illustration of personality.
I could have confined myself to showing only aspects of my body. My fingers tapping the table to illustrate restlessness, my head thrown back in laughter, concentrating on writing i.e. being active and industrious.
3.3 Text is powerful
The screen save of the message from my friend about me being ‘funny’ was illuminating. Words are very powerful. I could do a whole series of images looking at screen saves in answer to questions I have set people.
There is a further idea about phone photography. I could get people to send images that say what my personality is like. I may do that.
I am going to stop now as I am in danger of being thrown out of this cafe where I have thought about, researched (trawled my mind), conducted and written about this exercise. I don’t want to become like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day.
Bill Murray: What are you looking for? Who is your perfect guy? Andie MacDowell: First of all, he's too humble to know he's perfect. That's me. He's intelligent, supportive, funny. Me, me, me. He's romantic and courageous. Me also. He's got a good body, but doesn't look in the mirror every two minutes. I have a great body, and sometimes I go months without looking. He's kind, sensitive and gentle. He's not afraid to cry in front of me. This is a man, right? http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/g/groundhog-day-script-transcript.html