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.