Category Archives: Project3:Self absented portraiture

Project 3: Self-absented portraiture

I started with the work of  Maria Kapajeva who is an Estonian immigrant into the UK. She left Estonia because she felt pressured to become a wife and mother. She wished to pursue her photography so she left a well paid job as an economist to go to the UK and study photography at The University of the Creative Arts.

Her work is very feminist orientated and very often concerned with marriage. In her project Interiors (1) she researched Russian web sites where women were looking for European male partners for marriage. Although the women were trying to present themselves as ‘different’ they all posed in similar domestic interiors. Kapajeva worked on these images to create her project.She created another intriguing project using images of Russian women woven into quilted cushions.

Her Indian project involved educated women that she photographed in B&W with reflections in mirrors. She then hand painted, as is done in many Indian portraits, the image leaving the reflection in B&W. This work was entitled Marry Me.

I cannot say the Washing Up series by Nigel Safran inspires me. In an interview with Charlotte Cotton he explains  he uses subjects which are close by (3). As with Washing up I find his Dad’s Office very mundane. I am trying to find the self portraiture in these images. Compared to Kapajeva, who claims to have learned something additional about herself (2) in each of her projects, I cannot see the link with Safran’s self and his chosen subjects. The notes say, Shafran gives us an intimate insight into his daily routines and family life, but I do not see anything which could identify either him or his lifestyle. The objects on the draining board could be from anyone’s house. Maybe this is his point that he is a very ordinary man? Kapajeva’s work is concerned with feminism, stereotyping of women and expected roles for women. She understood where her chosen subjects are coming from and the personal identification is evident. Calle’s work, Take Care of Yourself, which I have reviewed here, is very strongly about herself. We understand exactly what she is about. Her work is like a performance of a personal diary.

I cannot say I was surprised that the Washing Up images were taken by a man. Either sex could and might have created these images. Sometimes the gender of the photographer does contribute to the creation of an image. I do not think either Calle or Kakajeva’s work could have been created by a male. These photographers are working from very personal experiences which could only have been experienced by a woman.

I am at a loss to see what the Washing Up series achieves by the exclusion of people other than the exclusion of a woman makes them less stereotyped. Women are mainly connected with the practice of domestic chores in the kitchen. The fact that there is no one in the image leaves the possibility open that the task could have been performed by wither a man or a woman.

I love Anna Fox’s infamous Cockroach Diary. I love it from two points of view. Firstly when living in Africa cockroaches were part of our daily lives. These fellows were enormous, unlike the rather slim cousins which Anna Fox shows in this set of images. Each night shoes had to be placed uppers faced downwards to avoid the creatures entering the warm space your feet had recently vacated. In the morning you clapped the pair of Birkenstocks together to dislodge any roaches which might have managed to infiltrate them. The whole story of cockroaches became an obsession in our lives. Returning from work, if we were lucky enough to have electricity, my husband would strip down to underwear and lie on the floor, under the ceiling fan, but always with one eye open to watch for approaching cockroaches from along the corridor. Many cockroach discoveries made their way into our diaries of that time. Sadly I never thought of publishing these works of art… However I had already decided, for my present OCA diary, to copy the pages for the equivalent dates from the 1997 or 1998 diaries, the years we spent in Africa.



  1. Maria Kapajeva | Los Interiores de la Madre Rusia. 2016. Maria Kapajeva | Los Interiores de la Madre Rusia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 03 March 2016].
  2. Maria Kapajeva | photoparley. 2016. Maria Kapajeva | photoparley. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 03 March 2016]
  3. Interview with Charlotte Cotton, edited photographs : Nigel Shafran. 2016. Interview with Charlotte Cotton, edited photographs : Nigel Shafran. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 03 March 2016].