Friday, 2 March 2012

One face six ways


New York-based photographic artist Cindy Sherman specializes in dressing as different characters, male and female, then taking self-portraits in her exploration of women's place in society; she recently appeared in a MAC cosmetics campaign and you'd probably recognize her if you saw her.

I am interested in how people respond to others based on what they wear, at least at first glance. This topic has been a subject of my artwork on and off again for years and has been growing again since I began blogging.

In January I decided to use photography for the first time in exploring this idea, so I gathered up a bunch of stuff and headed to my studio where I tried to create different versions of me with a handful of accessories. How many illusions could I create with these few things? The shoot took about two hours and it was pretty chaotic since I'm not used to self-portraiture. This is the result.

This is me BEFORE, the way I look when I'm painting.


This is me AFTER.

Accessories
3 hats, 2 light scarves, 1 burgundy winter scarf, 3 pairs of gloves
some bangles, 2 pairs of earrings and a necklace, a fur collar with ties

Cosmetics
foundation, white powder, blush, lipstick (exaggerated bow lips)

Clothes
my ratty studio shirt and grungy brown hoodie




I am wondering how much women question their image decisions and how many wish they had taken other paths presentation-wise. Do you think it's possible to consciously alter your image after presenting the same version of "you" for most of your life? If you push your boundaries of style, does that push your personality as well? Is that artificial? Are there parts of you that you would like to express but don't? Why not? I am interested in your views on any of these points.



Thanks for stopping by! By the way, let me know if you think of any funny captions for any of the photos - some of the looks are...interesting.


This last photo is my friend Sandra after her first cosmetics lesson (true). Her beautician couldn't stop laughing. I know why!


PS March is a crazy time for me and I won't be able to post very often or respond to your comments right away, but I will check in as often as I can!



41 comments:

  1. In those photos the one thing that stands out are your beautiful big blue eyes.
    I dyed my naturally blonde hair black after a major operation six years ago. I felt like a new woman and wanted something that reflected this on the outside. It's the best thing I ever did and I only wish I'd done it sooner. When I look in the mirror now I don't see the "me" I used to be, every day is an adventure, both sartorially and in doing something new. x

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    1. Oh, I replied to you, but it just looks like a regular comment - I forgot to push "reply." It's below.

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  2. I agree with Vix, your eyes are amazingly beautiful. My favourites are the slightly sinister sunglasses look (sinister perhaps because your lovely eyes are covered?) and the final headscarf shot where you remind me of Russian doll. Very interesting. I sometimes play dress up and try to be a "character" but it just always looks like me - only with a daft expression on my face...

    I made a conscious decision last year, after buying and selling vintage clothes on Ebay and getting into vintage-loving blogs, that I should get back to wearing it. I used to in my 20s and had then slipped into professional work clothes (smart, boring) and anonymous don't-look-at-me casual clothes (bland and boring) when I became a full-time mum.
    I think I wanted reclaim something for myself and express it, and my old love of vintage was the way to do that. It got a lot of reaction at first and took some guts actually (no one else dresses like me on the school run and I saw the looks...) but interestingly that has passed, so it was clearly the change that got people staring. Now, my friends are surprised if I wear something "ordinary"! I am so much more confident for making the change to wearing what I love - it takes some nerve to stand out, but they're only clothes after all, how brave do you really have to be to wear a frock?
    It's fascinating to ponder why women (in particular) look/dress as they do and why so many say "I couldn't wear that" - not wouldn't - COULDN'T. What makes so many of us so scared?
    Great post, Melanie, sorry to ramble on but you got me thinking!
    PS. Tell Sandra's she's funny and fabulous! xxxxx

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    1. Curtise, thanks for your comment. I am so happy and relieved that you've found your way back! And it shows in your blog photos, vibrant and stunning! I had my dark years too, but that's another post... (Wouldn't you know, just when I have the least time to spend here I am finding the most thought-provoking stuff?) Of course I know all about daft expressions!

      On your point about being scared, I wish I could understand that too. I do think people enjoy being part of a herd, like if you're in a parking lot and there are a billion empty spaces, the next guy who comes in parks beside you. If you're in a herd you don't have to think for yourself - you just do what everyone else is doing. Maybe independence frightens people because you might call the emperor on his new clothes?

      Blah, blah, I could go on forever. So much to say... I'll tell Sandra. She'll like your compliment!

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    2. Addendum: Not true about the herd comment - I can still be in a herd and FEEL special and think independently. (Okay, thinking too much, must get back to work...)

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  3. Thanks for sharing that, Vix. It's funny how one tangible change can lead to a sense of greater authenticity. I have seen people utterly transform on Halloween, I mean COMPLETELY - they become giggly, happy fools! Great! And I ask, why don't you wear that wig/clothes/shoes more often and they say, horrified, Oh no, I couldn't! ???!

    I'm really enjoying sharing your adventure!...And your hair is gorgeous!

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  4. This is a fun post Melanie. So creative too. Dressing would be boring without accessories for sure. I've tried many different looks along the way but do pretty much stick to one look now. Mostly because I don't like spending all the money it takes to redefine myself. The journey is good but I always end up coming back to the same things. In doing this though, it is a reminder of who I am not. But the exploration was fun!

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    1. Yes, I've found that too, that taking side roads (usually for day trips) can reaffirm where we truly are going. Thanks for your feedback.

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  5. As an actor, I'm inclined to give every question you pose real contemplation since I believe that our inner and outer worlds inform each other. I'll revisit this post often and enjoy the challenge it presents. In the meantime, I adore the variety of views you provided with a few accessories. That in and of itself is inspiring.

    Have a good month (and breathe when you can!)

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    1. I agree with you, Jean, about the inner and outer worlds. When I wear certain clothes, I know that I adjust to them as much as they adjust to me. The same is true of music and art - they impact how I interact with the world around me. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. I THINK YOUR EYES ARE YOUR BEST MAKE UPS.
    lOVE all the pics.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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    1. Thank you, sacramento. I wish I could carry bright studio lighting around with me all day!

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  7. What an interesting study, in every photo you transmit a different energy, I think that changing the style of clothing the person may tend to change their personality to fit as shown, do not think it would be entirely arficial because could be the expression of another I inner self ... this post make me to remember to a sentence of Nicolas Machiavelli "few see what we are, but all see what we pretend to be".... success with your study, big hug

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful remark and encouragement. Yes, people see outwardly what I deliberately choose to show the world. I hope that from time to time they can see the poetry I feel that percolates under my skin.

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  8. I think you look really fabulous in the before picture! (Obviously the afters are also pretty good.) I think style just evolves organically. Mine has changed a lot, but it always does so slowly (and cheaply via thrifting).

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    1. Ooo, that BEFORE picture is my fave too, because it's real. Apart from my artwork itself, it's the most spiritually ne'ked shot you'll ever see of me - in my grubbies, no makeup, ready to get down to it with personal expression. Thank you! Yes, thrifting is a great way to live and experiment.

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  9. Hi my dear,
    I found your blog by chance, while peeking others and I decided to check it out! I’m glad I did it, because I am really delighted with yours. It's beautiful, well structured, interesting, sweet amazing... If you love mine too,I'd like to invite you to follow mine . I’d be very pleased.,,,Then I'll follow you back!!!

    www.thechicetoile.com

    kisses,Francesca

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    1. Hi Chic Etoile, thank you for stopping by and your compliment. I'll check your site.

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  10. What a great idea for a post! I think as we go through life, experience different phases, our perspective, priorities and personality change and so does our style! Its not only OK, but to a certain extent necessary to change your image/style..Specially if it it helps you grow - I don't think it is artificial as long as you are true to what you feel at the moment!
    BTW, your 3rd picture totally says "Penthouse please"! You are so gorgeous! Hope you are having a wonderful day!
    -Jyoti
    Style-Delights Blog
    Let's Twitter Together
    Friend and Fan on Facebook

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    1. Thank you. I have gone through many phases in style and the current phase came out kicking and screaming - in a good way! I always wonder what life would be like if I embodied other styles, for example had big hair, had surgical enhancements, etc. I see how people respond to other looks and wonder how I would feel in their shoes (usually stilettos), after all, it is so easy to throw on another style. But approbation for being anyone but me wouldn't cut it. I enjoy who I am too much.

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  11. Great post. I suppose altering ones appearance by means of fashion could be considered fake or artificial depending on the motives. I believe it can be a creative way to express one's personality, mood and our evolving self the same as if we wrote a poem, wrote a song or created a work of art....but the canvas is our own outward person. I only began experimenting with my outward appearance a few years ago. A long time friend (we are now thousands of miles apart) is aware of my blog and comments frequently about how it seems so strange to see me dressing up so much and she didn't know I had this side to me. Well, compared to what I used to wear I suppose it's "dressing up", but I'm just finally letting a part of myself show that I think I must have kept hidden for quite a while. I think I tried to keep my whole self hidden for many years.
    But, on the other hand, I do not believe outward appearances are the most valuable way of estimating your self worth. Far from it. I value being real and genuine highly, but it's fun to play a bit at times with certain aspects of ourselves too.
    I'm not the most articulate person, so I hope this makes some sort of sense.

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    1. Yes, you are making complete sense! When I was in my early 20s I thought I should NEVER EVER be judged by my outward appearance, so I took pains to show how much I didn't care about it for a while. (I look back and cringe!) I agree with your self-worth comment too. Just like you, when I make a style change as I evolve in life direction and taste, it's interesting to see how people react to the change.

      The important thing is you sure look like you're having fun over there! Positive energy makes life so grand. Thank you for this comment.

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  12. Fantastic. I love this post. You truly look like a different person in all these photos, and I positively love the concept behind it. This was such a cool idea.

    I change my style up constantly-- sometimes I look sort of conservative, sometimes I look really wild. I would like to say that because of this, people don't have an expectation of how I look, or like a "version" or "image" of me in mind, but at the same time, that may very well be what my image is.
    I think people can always change their perceived image. Absolutely. You are who you put forth, any given day, any moment. And really, you are who you are on the inside no matter what your outside says. I like to think how I look on the outside is a representation of how I felt that morning when I got dressed, like who I felt I was.

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    1. Right. I can see how being unpredictable about what you wear can be a definition of style in itself AND how what you are wearing is still a reflection of your core. I never know until I fling open the closet door what's going to jump out.

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  13. Great thought-provoking post! Your dazzling blue eyes are the thing that draw me in all of those photos, but it is an interesting experiment to see how much you can change your look with a few simple accessories. I like to think that whether I'm wearing head to toe black, some fancy vintage bit of fun, or jeans and a hoodie that I'm always me, but then I do have the crazy hair that keeps it from looking too dull. I think there was always the person inside me that wanted to dress differently from other people, because I never felt that I fit in with other people growing up. I had to mature, and acquire the confidence to do it, which I have, and part of that is because I have found my "tribe" - people like you, and other bloggers, in whom I see parts of myself reflected. People seem to think it takes great courage to wear what you want, to stand out, and not be afraid of people's reaction, and maybe it does, otherwise, everyone would do it.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that. I agree that having found a "tribe" provides a kind of affirmation that is sometimes hard to find close by. It has taken years to get to this point for me as well, and I find that the need to express myself must not be ignored. But I also find that many people out here don't blink too much at the outrageous - as long as you are not asking for money, it's each to his own! Courage was maybe an inner battle.

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  14. The most marked change in appearance is with the last photo in the tiny scarf. In my lifetime I have played with presentation quite a lot, but I've done it through hair cuts mostly. When my head has been shaved and I have on my overcoat, I'm often taken for a male. I keep a closet full of dress up clothes, but I seldom wear them to work. It is more an indulgence at home.

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    1. Thank you, Terri! I always have a boy thing going on with my somewhat, hm, planar profile. I'm happy to hear about your dressup clothes. In terms of appearance, I think I look very similar in all the photos, a bit deer-in-the-headlights, but at the same time I was looking for caricatures with the round red cheeks and bow lips. I'm getting more comfortable with a camera now so it would be interesting to do this again in a while and compare the two. I like the simple blue scarf too.

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  15. I love your photos. Some of them look like some kind of traditional costume from somewhere in Easter Europe.

    I find you question about personal style really interesting. I shop frequently (I enjoy it even if I don't buy anything) and recently I've been trying clothes that I would normally walk right past. It's strange looking at clothes on me that don't look like "me". I think the clothes we choose to wear are a good reflection of who we are and what we think of ourselves. Wearing clothes that aren't "me" makes me feel very uncomfortable. Even for my blog, if my husband wants me to wear a specific outfit that I'm not in the mood for I just hate it. A while back a lot of bloggers were doing a thing where their boyfriends/husbands picked out their clothes for an outfit post. Even though the girls looked perfectly fine you could feel the discomfort ebbing from the photos.

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, The Style Confessions, and leaving a comment!

    Heather

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    1. I absolutely agree with your viewpoint. It's funny that we may sometimes dress specifically to please someone and feel fantastic about it, but if that same someone picks something out that we KNOW for sure will please them, we may feel very uncomfortable. Thanks for sharing that insight! Having control about our appearance is important, even if it's dressing for work or another occasion that we may not enjoy...

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  16. Hi Melanie!

    I am back from vacation! I have been lookink at your posts
    God! Lady you are so wonderful and so clever as well!
    I see you are getting more followers and comments you will be big !
    So happy, i have a good eye!

    About altering appearance, i guess i have been doing it through my hair i am forever changing color and hair cuts. I love to shock and suprise!

    Ariane xxxx

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    1. I am so happy you are back!!! LI! (laughing inside)
      Your compliments make me bat my eyes furiously. Your positivity is better than a double espresso! YOUR STYLE blows me away always and I can't wait to see how you look after your R&R. Did you find any goodies? I love how you always mix it up with your hair. Shock and surprise is an excellent policy. I almost went red recently, but then I remember how much work it is. Hm.

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  17. Love your blog!! i will follow!!

    xoxo!!!
    http://self-dressed.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you. I saw your blog and your collar is great!

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  18. I love this post,You are brilliant. And I like the shelter of post previous. I want it now! Kssss from Spain!
    www.clubmujeresreales.blogspot.com

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  19. Melanie i do believe this is my favorite fashion post thus far. It is so visually pleasing, unique and backed by thought provoking questions...art, fashion and thought wrapped up masterfully in a single post...my dear you have taken my morning to another level with your points to ponder and brilliant fashion... your true beauty shines through in each photo. Thank you for sharing your artistic soul.

    I believe we can always choose to present ourselves differently, to reinvent ourselves visually to mirror our internal perspectives. To take what could be a mundane task of covering our bodies and instead elevate the process to create a vision of ourselves we are excited to share with the world. If dressing is an art which enlivens our soul, that adds passion and excitement to our day...so that we in turn have more to share with the world...how could that be artificial? Your thought provoking blog where art and fashion can merge, further reminds me of this truth. Again, thank you for the reminder.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You've reminded me again of the power of the positive loops of energy that comes from throwing our best selves into the world - we not only get energy reflected back in appreciation but we are also reflectors for everyone else who is projecting our way. Art, passion, beauty make the world a better place.

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  20. well to reiterate what everyone else has said.. oh. my. god. your eyes are amazing. the baby blue background helps them stand out even more and the transformation between accessories is stunning.

    but as to me... well ive definitely changed my image over the years, but mainly due to the fact that i now dress myself. school pictures are the stuff of embarrassment, what with the matching top-pant sets. plus it was the early 90s. but as i have grown into my own skin my style has morphed and refined itself. i am still generally over-dressed for any situation, but i can accept that and if others cant, well, tough. since i'm unsure of my future career path, my image may have to change rather abruptly, but i am confident it will still be "me".

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    1. I liked your comment on how your style has changed since you started dressing yourself! And I agree that over-dressing can never be wrong. Good luck in your life transition! Thanks for dropping by.

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  21. you remind me of this ex tutor/artist I know, in the first pics called Boo Ritson, she literally paints onto people

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