Artists have created portraits of themselves since ancient times, and during the Renaissance the self-portrait became a strong genre within art. Painters such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh are certainly known for their self-portraits, and photographers have created some of their greatest works by using their own images. Artists and photographers alike have found themselves to be their own most inexpensive and readily available models.
As this exhibition illustrates, photographic self-portraits reveal different innovative approaches to the genre. Self, Model, and Self as Other highlights about 50 self-portraits—spanning more than a century—from the MFAH photography collection.
Whereas some photographers show themselves in the context of significant objects such as their tools, others are less straightforward, perhaps shielding their faces behind symbolic objects. Cindy Sherman, for example, made herself the focus of her work, and though her features became famous, her photographs offer little personal information. Robert Mapplethorpe, in a self-portrait taken just months before his death, holds a cane topped with a carved skull.
Photographers have also used mirrors or their own reflections and shadows. These images serve to remind viewers that photographs are not transparent, objective views of reality but have been created by individuals and shaped by personal perceptions.
This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.