Auto Focus

Posted on Saturday, 5 March 2011

I have more illustration and graphic design artbooks than photography ones, which seems rather strange because I’m a photographer by profession. I’m going to try to buy more photography books now since I used to have a bad habit of quickly browsing through them for free, knowing I could find the content online. This one was something I got from Fully Booked a month ago (and being occasionally superficial, I was swayed by the prettiness that is the cover), and it’s aptly entitled Auto Focus: The Self-Portrait in Contemporary Photography. I say aptly since I’ve been taking a lot of my own photos for this blog, as seen in my personal style and beauty entries. I have yet to take better photos of myself as most of the ones I take are for this blog, but I’ve always been meaning to find time to work on something that’s a lot less commercial-looking.

Self-portraiture is something that’s definitely underestimated, especially since the rise of social networking sites that made profile pictures necessities. Anyone can just take photos of himself or herself smiling from a high angle at any location, and you can call it a self-portrait. Or is it really *that* easy to take one? Well, Auto Focus definitely won’t show you any Myspace-angle photography.

This book is so fascinating because it features photographs of different artists from all over the globe, and they each have stories to tell about their work. They take pictures of themselves for different reasons - as an act of rebellion against society, as merely a documentation of a part of their lives, as a way to present himself or herself as someone or something else, and as a way to convey a message to a certain community, among others. Absolutely not the kind of stuff you’d take in your room with your webcam.

There were some notable Asian photographers who caught my attention, besides Kimiko Yoshida, whose work I was already familiar with.  I especially loved My Little Dead Dick because it’s a Chinese couple’s collaboration in the form of a photo diary, and I’m a sucker for cheesy things like that. They also took the photo on the cover of the book.

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