I wanted to make true and candid portraits, and decided that the less that I was involved, the more honest that they would be. People were approached and asked if they would take a photograph of themselves. They were told that they could do as they pleased and that I would just focus the camera. The camera was attached to a long cable release and they could release the shutter by squeezing an air release when they thought was the right time. They could be as near to or far from the camera as they wanted and could take as long as they needed.
When people asked what was the intention of the project, I explained that I wanted to collect a body of images throughout England that showed people how they wished to be represented. I explained that I didn’t want to give instructions and thus manipulate their representation to conform to some preconception that I might hold. I was interested in the politics of power in the making of a portrait.
When I was collecting the work, I would try to disengage myself from the process of making the image as much as I was able. If the camera was on a tripod, I would step away and if I was hand-holding the camera I would turn my back on the sitter. I suppose that I believed that that in doing so, the sitter would reveal more of themselves and that the resulting image would be more candid. At the time of making this work, I had recently been particularly affected by a passage in Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. In this book, it was his contention that whenever a person was sitting for a portrait, they would assume some form of a mask, often involuntarily; I thought by working in this spontaneous way, coupled with the Autoportrait methodology, that I would be able to shed layers of ‘the mask’.