The relationship between the self and other is one of the most exquisite theoretical issues in the social sciences (Ziller 1990 p. 108). The essential question „Who am I?“ hides, in my opinion, the equation of infinity of unknowns interconnected with the combination of random and non-random equations around (in discourse with Bronfenbrenner´s socioecological model, Bronfenbrenner 1986, 1992, 2009) and before-behind (in discourse with Erikson´s stages of psychosocial development, Erikson 1963). I am sure that we all should include our the self into this discourse because we all together create the whole system.
Last seven years I have been searching for these equations via photography and in discourse with psychosocial development of the individual, quantum physics, neurobiological, and sociological aspects, I do continuous visual research and study of the self. Who am I? What all influnces my the self? What all influences my the self´s perception of the reality and the world „I“ perceive that „I“ am living in and vice versa my the self formation via the around and before when we take into account that „I“ is the creator of illusion and the self you have learned to recognize in the mirror is constantly reinforcing all kinds of limitations that do not need to exist (Chopra 2019).With THE SELF STUDY PROJECT I try to open a discourse and search for possible answers on these questions. This research also became a part of an unpublished essay for my study of „Therapeutic Photography“ at Robert Gordon University in Scotland.
Murphy (1947) defined the self as: „The self is the individual as known to the individual“ (Ziller p. 28). In fact, every picture we take is a self-portrait (Weiser 1999), the things we notice, and therefore the things we focus upon, will always reflect our own experiences, inner beliefs and our own understanding of the world around us, otherwise we would not choose to focus on that particular view (Burn 2019). Burn (2019 p. 31) defined self-portrait as: „The self portrait is the representation of oneself by oneself.“
I find self-documentary including self-portraits as a strong method of self-therapy and self-understanding and as an effective way of exploring “the self” and its interrelation with the other (Worth 1964 p. 3, Ziller 1990 p. 34, Spence 1986, Burn 2019), enabling “to capture feelings and reveals values, attitudes and concerns that lie beyond the conscious control of the maker” (Worth 1964 in Ziller p. 34). Following the work of Spence (1986) who used a non-naturalistic method that they termed ‘photo-theatre’, putting herself in a picture, and shifted the field of photography, self-documentary and self-portrait in concrete, in the therapy and self-therapy level, I have started with my own the self-documentary in 2015 when I was fighting with social phobia after my maternity leave and I was dealing with the trauma after my thirteen-year-old niece committed suicide (Maternal Exile Series, 2015-2020 with overlaps, Personal Diary, Self-Documentary, series and text available: http://ivana.dostal.eu.com/fwp_portfolio/maternal_exiles/).
„One day after my life turned upside down I stayed on the crossroad deeply knowing that I am no more the person I had been. I had no more been the scientist. I had no more been the woman who found the love of her life. I had no more been myself. I was not able to speak, I was not able to do anything. With the exception of photography … So I took the camera and started to document every step of my daily life. From that day the camera has started to be my hand, my eye, my possibility to talk, my friend, my hope, my belief …“
Part of my own text for Maternal Exile Series
„Photography is an intrinsic way of processing difficult life events. I can´t understand the world if I don´t make work about it.”
Photographer Marie Smith for British Journal of Photography
This self-documentary has been not only a kind of self-therapy and the way of dealing with trauma, but also my reflection of today´s society and “instant Instagram happiness” where “as if one had no choice but to be happy, cheerful and successful” and the pressure for not only physical, but also for mental perfection leads to individual´s hiding of any mental issues for fear of stigma. “You almost feel that there is no place for real life in the flood of happy pictures.” My own citation
“Cultural ideals of physical appearance, displayed through photographs and evolving over time, often unconsciously influence the mind´s (idealized) images of self.“ (Sontag 1973 p. 85) One participant in the study of Madden and Breny (2015), which explored the influence of microsystem (family) and exosystem – macrosystem (media – culture) (Bronfenbrenner 1986, 1992, 2009) on body image concerns of adolescent girls, wrote to her photography of fashion magazine cover: “Media drugs my mind.” The results of this study clearly showed how “around” influences our perception of our personal value and the perception of the self.