artists' statement for self-portrait project

Sophie and Jay Paris at the 2007 opening


Sophie and Jay Paris at the 2007 opening


At the turn of the century, the self-portrait gained popularity with the advent of the air-bulb shutter release. For the first time individuals and small groups could determine the precise moment and way in which to capture themselves. When we decided to undertake a project to photograph the village of North Bennington, we decided to return to this tradition.

It felt right.

As father and daughter, we have been returning often to North Bennington to visit Elsie and Paul Paris, our parents and grandparents. We have grown to appreciate this village as a place where bonds among families and friends are unusually strong. Because of this, we were happier sharing the decisions about how and when to photograph our subjects with them.

But even standing upon the traditions of self-portraiture, we have made some significant departures. We also appreciate the immediacy of modern photography, made even easier with the advent of digital cameras. It’s now possible to take a picture, go to the computer and make an exhibition quality print in minutes. Rather than taking something away from the photographic process that occurs from intense labor, we have seen this development as a freeing opportunity to foreshorten the difficulties of sharing our work with those we have photographed—which is the real joy of our craft.

Half of these images were photographed, printed, matted and framed on September 30, 2000. The other half of these images were photographed, printed, matted and framed yesterday, September 22, 2007. As before, the showing of this work for the people we photographed, their friends and family, and our friends and family, follows the shoot by one day. Completing this project in one full weekend is significant because we want our subjects to react to their self-portraits while the experience is still fresh.

We wish to thank the North Bennington Fund, the Vermont Arts Exchange, Elsie Paris, Susan Paris Borden, Carmi Paris and many friends in North Bennington for their generous support.

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