Self Portrait

The Original


The First Edit


In my self-portrait, I took a straight-ahead shot of my face and used it for my edits. I used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

The empirical representation of myself is shown in the detail of my face. Naturally, humans understand that eyes, a nose, and a mouth is the “base standard” of a face. Most good faces have these features, those that don’t tend to receive mixed reviews from critics and regular society.

But in all seriousness, there is little that is represented in my face from the unedited. All that is represented in the photo is all you can really know. An unemotive face leaves very little to be interpreted. The plain background subtracts from any context that you might have picked up on. For every intent and purpose, this photo is of a face and serves no other symbolic person aside from the innate human response to identify my features as a “face.”

On the other hand, my edit contains aggressive colors and embedded symbolism that impact the meaning of the photograph. What is represented here then?

The background is now a striking red plane with the “raised fist” emblem in yellow and brighter red. A large part of my personality is represented in this emblem. The raised fist is a historical gesture that shows solidarity. It has been used by all movements to signify strength in unison, or to show allegiance to groups. In my case, I chose to color the fist yellow and red to imply that I have allegiance to leftist socialist groups like labor unions and equal-rights activists.

My actual portrait is black and white, save for green stars emblazoned across the image. The stars didn’t come out fully, the larger image that I created depicted them strongly. Woven into the black and grey sections of the image are clips of sheet music from the Queen song, titled “Somebody to Love.”This represents my love of music.

The visible lyrics at the bottom of the page can be juuust made out to say “…can barely stand on my feet.” This was accidental, but depending on how you view the image, it could represent fatigue or weariness. I did not intend to give that impression, and the aggressive form of the photo doesn’t do much to imply it either. However, had the photo been darker and less vibrant, that could have been interpreted much differently.

Charles Pierce’s idea of a “symbolic signs” is that the object does not relate to its form. In this case, I agree with him. The symbol of the fist is detached from “solidarity”, the sheet music is detached from my personal love of music. In both cases, the form does not imply the meaning.

The Second Edit

edit 1.png

This edit was completed before my first example but I didn’t feel that it answered the design criteria. I didn’t feel that way until I looked over the text again and discovered the Pierce view of symbolic sign.

In this case, the form is even more detached from its meaning. In fact, this is dismantling form and meaning altogether. In a way, this photograph has more in common with my unedited photo than my “solidarity” edit. In the background are the musical staves. Looking back now, I wish I had taken them out because they undercut the surreal form of the photo.

This edit is composed of my original photo, and the eyes of celebrities and thinkers that I admire. Empirically, this photo represents a multitude of eyes and a lack of other facial features. Therefore, it does not represent a human in any meaningful way. This may be symbolic of an alienating gaze, perhaps you feel uncomfortable when you look at the photo. I fully intended to, I wanted to disgust people when I create this.

Pierce’s philosophy follows the form of the image. His philosophy dictates that “fingerprints are symbolic of a human.” There is an existential link between the form and the interpretation. None of these eyes are my own, they are alienated from the body they are on. They belong to other people, Freddy Mercury, David Bowie, Frederic Chopin, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Prince, Robin Williams, Leslie Nielson, Mark Linkous, and others.

Yet, they are facets of a human form, and they can represent the “gaze.” Therefore, this is a wildly alternative interpretation of several things, Pierce’s indexical link betwen symbol and symbolized, the gaze, and the human form. This all symbolizes confusion and alienation, do these represent me?

My take on it is this. My world view is influenced by more people than I could ever care to count, these views may contradict each other or alienate others, but they are the basis of my world view. However I choose to interpret something, these are the eyes by which I see. They are a poetic outlook on the world, and they form what I see, despite what others may find grotesque or alien.


4 thoughts on “Self Portrait

  1. Excellent analysis and application of semiotic theory to the assignment. I can see that you have put a great deal of thought into both the ideas and what you produced.


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