Susan Bright: Auto Focus

I found this book a real eye-opener and was amazed to discover the depth and breadth of today’s interpretation of the self-portrait. Bright’s commentaries are hugely insightful and helpful and the book is beautifully designed, with excellent reproductions which are large enough to see clearly and are printed on high-quality paper which brings out the colour and detail.

The book was recommended to me by OCA student Allan513287 during a forum discussion about my own attempts to find a way of putting myself in the picture. For the project in question I actually excluded myself from the images, an approach that falls outside of the definition Bright used for this book, in which the self-portraits must show the artist. Bright divides her study into five categories based on the artists’ approaches to self-portraiture: Autobiography, Body, Masquerade, Studio & Album and Performance. This segmentation is very helpful in enabling the reader to get a sense of the overall terrain covered by this genre today and beginning to understand the many different ways of thinking about the subject of self-portrayal.

I’m now torn between reading the whole book again so that I can really get it all into my head or moving on to her Art Photography Now. But I’ve had exactly the same feeling after finishing all the really good books I’ve read for this course, to the extent that it’s a relief when I don’t get that feeling, and I now know that the correct response is always to move on to another one, because there are so many excellent books to discover and because I will never be able to completely absorb the entire contents of the good ones in the way I feel I want to.

References and resources

Bright, S. (2010) Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography. London: Thames & Hudson.