Effacing Subjectivity in Contemporary Portrait Photography: The Case of Aziz and Cucher

By Eirini Kapsidou.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Photography was invented in an era during which the importance of subjectivity and individualism was highly celebrated. From its inception, portrait photography has depicted, established or even shaped identities, thus affirming the centrality of the subject within the cultural milieu of previous eras. Contemporary portraiture, however, challenges the very notion of subjectivity, by exploring the limits of its representation. The fragmented, disarrayed in parts, even effaced subject, as portrayed by contemporary artists, certainly promotes a subversive view of identity. This paper will discuss photography by Aziz and Cucher, a contemporary American photographic duo, by focusing on their unusual series entitled “Dystopia” (1994–95). Through an analysis of photos from their work, I will examine the ways in which the photographers manage to create alienating portraits, forced to be enclosed within, rather than projecting an “inner essence” outside, by literally sealing the natural orifices on a face. In Aziz and Cucher’s photography, the subject’s “face”, instead of being a signifier of meaning, paradoxically becomes unreadable, amorphous, thus confirming its aporetic place within an era of vast morphoplastic possibility.

Keywords: Portrait Photography, Subjectivity, Representation

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.119-124. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 931.602KB).

Eirini Kapsidou

Instructor / PhD Candidate, Department of English Language and Literature, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

Currently, Eirini Kapsidou works at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where she teaches an Introduction to Poetry to first-year students, as well as in Anatolia College of Thessaloniki, where she teaches Literature and Culture. The focus of her PhD research is photography. She is particularly interested in the study of the representation of subjectivity in portrait photography, which she explores through various disciplines, such as philosophy, neuroscience and psychoanalysis. Theory and practice are combined in her PhD, as she applies the theoretical frame of gaze theory and the perception of images in an examination of photographic work by specific artists, as for instance Cindy Sherman or Aziz and Cucher.