I’d like to start this post off with my working definition for a few words:
Portrait: not just an image of someone, but rather a true representation of that person and their character, personality, and being.
Self-portrait: a considered portrait of one’s self.
Selfie: an image of one’s self typically created with the front-facing camera on the iPhone.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think selfies aren’t serious or considered, I just feel they have their own language and aren’t necessarily always a self-portrait. James Franco, the self-appointed selfie authority, recently had a show entitled New Film Stills at Pace Gallery in which he restaged Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills. Given his position, I would imagine Franco would be more responsible in his recreation of these images; they feel like a lazy interpretation of an iconic photographic project. After seeing Bound 3, his (better than the original) recreation of Kanye West’s music video Bound 2 he’s set the bar for how good his appropriation work can be that it makes me upset to see these Sherman recreations.
One image in particular and the impetus for writing this is posted below with the original from Sherman.
What is it about this image that bothers me so much? Franco didn’t recreate it. He wears a similar hat and gaze, but the essence of the photograph hasn’t been considered; he’s missing the thoughtful placement of the buildings in the background. In Sherman’s she is surrounded by buildings and is literary engulfed by the city whereas Franco’s is haphazardly composed. It may seem like a tiny detail to criticize, but the entire meaning of the photograph has been lost.
For a renaissance man and culture creator like Franco, missing a detail like this is problematic especially after seeing the precision with which he recreated and improved on West’s video. I applaud the effort in his continued interest in the representation and presentation of the self, but maybe the actor/writer/director/student/artist should stick to what he knows best, the selfie. That or apply the same level of responsibility to the creation of his work that he did in Bound 3.