Self-portraiture as an act of expression gained momentum in the Renaissance, with the rise of wealth and interest in individuality, and remains an intriguing form of self-expression through photography.

At this panel, the historical development of self-portraits will be discussed and presented by Professor Emerita Sally Stein, who will take us on a journey through late 20th-century photographic self-portraiture in a historical context and shed light on the work of Melissa Shook and Kent Ohara. New Yorker Melissa Shook, an artist active since the 1970s, devoted herself to daily documentation in her apartment, sometimes with her daughter, friends and cat. She always took photographs for herself and made works that were not necessarily meant to be shown or exhibited but to record her everyday life: it was a therapy for her.

Photographer and writer Carla Williams has spent 25 years developing an expansive curiosity about the medium. Williams, born in Los Angeles, grew up filming and consuming performance culture, observing and fantasizing about the reality and portrayal of adult life. With a particular focus on the timeless aesthetics of female representation, Williams left an essential piece of Black women’s contributions to the medium.

Together, we will consider self-image through aspects of identity and body politics as a tool for self-expression and self-representation and discuss how the intention of representation has changed over time, reflecting populism and the popularity of modern technologies and social media, especially regarding female representation in the younger generation of self-portraitists.

Through several examples of artworks, we will discuss contemporary self-portraiture and profiling of selfie culture in the last decade and how it has influenced the era we live in, what it means today, and what it was before: why self-image is still so important when reflecting the culture and the time we live in, our own reality but also social-political landscape.