Looking at Ourselves

  • Howard Walmsley

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


Abstract:If we accept that the study of anthropology is to explore what it is to be human, then increasingly that involves being documented by a number of means, from surveillance, identity photographs, online profiles to auto portraiture and then to the various means of viewing them and the speculation regarding how they may be viewed. As more people carry camera phones we are looking at ourselves and others more than ever before. This technological advancement presents the question: How do certain forms of historical photographic practice (specifically anthropometry and the analogue photobooth) relate to contemporary attitudes to photographic portraiture and how do they affect spontaneity of performance, interior dialogue, memory and awareness in front of the camera? Using the philosophical reference points and analysis of Barthes, Benjamin, Edwards, Hiller and MacDougall, I will specifically examine subject / image relationships and how they relate to particular means of recording. The research explores these visual interactions and the effect that an image-saturated culture has on people who live within it or practice it, how we assimilate changing technologies into our lives and whether these transformations not only reflect but also contribute to a changing sense of self. I have worked with two groups of artists who employ photography and film as primary means of generating and / or communicating their work. One group is connected via their image-making practice, the other through associations with a studio workspace. Both groups reflect on their relationships with portrait images as creators, subjects and viewers. Most of us do not step back to reflect on the significance of these relationships and how they affect our response to the world. Artists in various ways are engaged in such reflection and that is why I have chosen them as mediators to be the subject of these films.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPaul Henley (Supervisor) & Andrew Irving (Supervisor)


  • image, identity, gaze, photography

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