PicBod- Identity Lecture

To begin the PicBod module, we started to look at the idea of identity and what it means to us. Identity is complex and hard to define as what makes up our identity? There are a range of different forms of identifications, the obvious include our finger prints, passports and driving licences, and our physical appearance. However there are less obvious things that also make up our identity including personality, clothes, religion, our background and the way we have been brought up, relationships with people, what we do for a living and our own morals.

Google defines identity as; in psychology and sociology, identity is a person’s conception and expression of their own (self-identity) and others’ individuality or group affiliations (such as national identity and cultural identity).

Throughout the lecture on identity we were challenged with different ideas around the theme and identity within photography; one interesting idea was that body language can change the way we see an image and read it. People can act and present themselves differently, giving us a different opinions of them, people often make assumptions about a person based around the way they look or act. This idea was challenged by the work of Richard Renaldi and his body of work ‘Touching Strangers‘; in this work Renaldi set up two strangers together to make them look like they knew each other and have a strong relationship. In actual fact the people in the shoots did not know each other prior to the photoshoot. This body of work shows how imagery can be used to enforce an opinion on people and also to change peoples identity by setting up an image or manipulating it. I questioned how much identity can you show in a photograph? Passport photographs are meant to be a strong form of identification, however I do not believe this to be completely true. People can change their appearance in a number of ways, some less intense like different hairstyles and make up, however some more permanent changes such as plastic surgery can completely change the appearance of someone, even as extreme as changing someone’s gender.


Touching Strangers‘ by Richard Renaldi 

Furthermore, due to technologies and programs like Photoshop, people can edit and manipulate photographs of themselves to make them look better. This links to the idea around our profile pictures on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, are these photographs true representations of us, or are they edited and selected specifically to make us look better? Are they outward facing showing us at our ‘best’ and who are they for? People often want to look their best and by having a good profile picture people often think that this shows all our ‘friends’ that we are good looking etc.

Identity can be seen to be constantly changing, sometimes we have power over it. I wanted to challenge this idea, does our DNA change or is it the constant in our identity? I plan to investigate this further to get full understanding on DNA and our biological identity. All these ideas around what is our ‘true’ identity made me think back to my previous work around the idea of biological identity; I believe that our DNA is a true form of identification as for each person it is different and unique to them. This idea of biological identity really interests me and I want to continue to explore this and ideas around it.


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