The Self-Portrait Video in 20 years

In 20 years the struggles that every self-portrait artist has to face will still be extremely prevalent. The main struggle of a self-portrait artist is the struggle of how to distill a person’s essence into a short piece. No matter the medium and no matter the time, this will always be the primary struggle of the self-portrait artist.

I imagine that because the idea of “self” and “individuality” is growing increasingly distinctive that the idea of the self-portrait will become more appealing. The rise of vlogs indicate that people enjoy profiling their lives to the wider public. See popular vlog, Jenna Marbles: http://www.youtube.com/user/JennaMarbles, and like http://www.youtube.com/user/thecomputernerd01, or things like one photo every day for 6 years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B26asyGKDo.

I think that in the future, the “artsy” self-portrait might be extinct because nobody wants to hear someone talk about themselves – they want to see how this person might relate to them. So I think self-portraits will become more like vlogs: more informal and conversational. I frankly agree. I think that the traditional self-portraits don’t connect enough with their audiences and I would like to see more interaction going on. I think a cool video with lots of interaction, this one: http://vimeo.com/61434, where the author has someone else ask her questions instead of her asking the questions.

Honestly, the self-portrait genre will still probably be a popular assignment for class or for admissions. However, I think that more creative approaches will be needed to catch the viewers’ attention. I would love to see more reenactments in “self-portrait” videos so there is more action, rather than just scenes and images. I would also like to see more of a story line in “self-portrait” videos because stories always catch peoples’ attention and give them a reason why your life matters to them.

History of Self-Portrait Video

The idea of the self-portrait dates all the way back through history as human beings attempted to conceptualize and locate themselves in the world. Since the 15th century, artists have tried to explore the artist’s own psyche. Some artists use realistic representation while some artists chose to use a distorted version of themselves. However, there was one artist – whom I will focus on here, who revolutionized the idea of self-portrait. This artist was Van Gogh.

Since Van Gogh, there have been numerous other artists who have followed in his footsteps. Still others used completely abstract shapes to depict themselves – for example, Jackson Pollack and March Rothko. Many of these different types are artistic representation are also evident in video forms of self-portraits.

Since the advent of technology, the photographic self-portrait has been very common. In 1840, Hippolyte Bayard portrayed himself as a suicide victim in a photograph entitled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man which sparked a whole movement in self-portrait photography.

A landmark film in the self-portrait video genre is The Beaches of Agnès, a cinematic self-portrait of French filmmaker Agnès Varda. Varda was part of the French New Wave film and won the 2009 César for best documentary. Since then, the genre of the self-portrait has been used extensively as prompts and assignments for teachers and students.

Self-Portrait Videos: The Ultimate Expression

Self-Portrait Videos

The self-portrait video is a small and relatively unknown genre of the Youtube/Vimeo universe. These videos attempt to show some aspect of the videographer’s life – usually for college admissions, job applications, or experimentation. It is also common for college classes to assign the “self-portrait” video as an assignment. To that end, typical producers are students making video personal statements for college, jobs, or amateur film makers who wanted to do something interesting and unusual. Their audience can range anywhere from admissions counselors to classmates and the greater Youtube universe. They’re usually don’t become as well known and popular as other videos that have gone viral but they serve their purpose, whether it is to fulfill a class assignment or show a side of themselves for an application.

Because the concept of a “self-portrait” is so widely open to interpretation by the videographer there are no hard or fast rules about the genre. The video can be a collage of video shots, experimental, stop-motion, etc. Virtually any film technique can be used. There can be a strong narrative, or not. However, here are some of the common characteristics you’ll find with the self-portrait video.

  1. Typically lower quality/handheld (although not always)

Example: https://vimeo.com/61434

  1. Typically music soundtrack and not as much dialogue

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCNQzL80-JU

  1. Lots of cuts going on in the video

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A0t6Ev7I9k

  1. Very personal in nature

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9oE0JohQz4

  1. Typically quite short

Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f07ZMYQHZwo (The length may also have to do with the fact that this is a stop-motion video, which is more time-consuming to make.)

  1. Usually “artsy” or experimental

Example: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xwgw3w_i-am-a-gazelle-the-self-portrait_fun#.UPOCXB37J2A

The self-portrait video is really a chance for the videographer to be creative, to create poetry with their camera. Since there are no industry standards, every decision you make about a shot really matters and the music you choose, as well as the cuts you make are all significant.