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Affective Portraits

This is work from a collaborative project I undertook with fellow artist, Adrian Wong. We are both interested in identity, memory and language. And while we both possibly approach this project from slightly different angles conceptually, we both found the project stimulating. Part of the conceit underlying this work is an interest in non verbal communication alongside the desire to conform to identified societal norms.

These photographs depict non traditional emotional communication in family or commercial studio portraiture. Emotions such as anger, sadness, despair, disgust, ecstasy. Anything except cookie cutter smiles. To create the Affective Portrait images a series of temporary photography studios were set up across Hong Kong –reminiscent of the department store “family portrait studios” popular in the 1980’s. Subjects were recruited to participate in photo sessions designed to simulate (and in some cases elicit) a range of emotions.

Through self-directed and external interventions, these subjects engaged in acting training, visualization exercises, directed facial action, and stimulus response to achieve the desired affective state. Some were asked to isolate muscles in the face and upper torso and contort them to match universal markers of emotion; some were more simply asked to chop onions or hold a piece of bitter gourd beneath their tongue; others to relay emotionally charged recollections in detail. The resulting body of images aims to expand the medium of studio portraiture to incorporate the full range of emotions that characterize human experience.