3a Regarding self portraiture

• Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?
• Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day on the beach with your family? If not, why not?
• Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

C&N [1, p.80]

[4Mar20, [1, p.80]] In practical legal terms under the protocols for hate speech and hate incidents agreed by the Crown Prosecution Service and the police (though not under statute as strictly defined by Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 [2])

[reformatted] something is a hate incident if the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on one of the following … disability, race, religion, transgender identity, sexual orientation. This means that if you believe something is a hate incident it should be recorded as such by the person you are reporting it to. All police forces record hate incidents based on these five personal characteristics.

Citizens Advice, What are hate incidents and hate crime?, [3]

It is not difficult to find individuals who regard some of Lee’s Projects as discriminatory.

The website contemp+orary (which was set up to monitor the treatment of minority artists) published a piece in 2016 criticising Lee’s Hispanic Project for using ‘brownface’ [4].

By contrast, in a review of Lee’s a.k.a. Nikki S. Lee (2007) [5] Amada Cruz describes Lee’s approach in Projects as,

[with] a winningly guileless personality and a genuine lack of condescension toward her subjects, she is welcomed into the gang and remains for a few weeks to several months

Amada Cruz [5]

From which it may be concluded that it is easy to be offended by Lee’s Projects if the viewer wishes to do so and the police would have to take any such complaint seriously. But it is equally possible to regard the work as a well-meaning and legitimate attempt to explore and embrace cultural differences.

• Would you agree to Morrissey’s request if you were enjoying a day on the beach with your family? If not, why not?

[5Mar20, [1, p.80]] Putting to one side the fact that I am not a beach holiday person, my first reaction was an unequivocal ‘yes’ and leave it at that.
But (a) I guess a course question requires a higher word count than that and (b) the next day I’m having second thoughts.

I would, at the risk of sounding priggish, seek to understand the nature of the photographer’s work and then only agree if I supported that purpose and didn’t mind being used as an example of whatever photographer is depicting. It might be interesting to learn the reaction Emily Thornberry would have received if she had asked the residents of the flag-bedecked house she photographed in 2014 whether they would like their home to be depicted as an object of ridicule.

If I were undertaking such a project, I would carry a previous example to show prospective subjects and promise them a print of the final result (I have made a quick check but cannot find any indication that Morrissey did the latter).

• Morrissey uses self-portraiture in more of her work, namely Seven and The Failed Realist. Look at these projects online and make some notes in your learning log.

One Woman. 1943 / 2015 ‡
Trish Morrissey

When I first encountered them a couple of days ago, I cannot say that I was enthused to emulate them. While I described Fronts as ‘Fun but without a point’, Seven and both Realist projects (2011 and 2017) seem far more insular and less revealing of anything of interest or importance †. Morrissey has said in interview that Seven [6] is about ‘secrets’, and that the images ‘all have a dark twist’, but that is entirely subjective to her own perception of them and not a view that I share.

Another project of Morrissey’s that I find more engaging is Ten People in a Suitcase, where Morrissey (as part of a commission) portrayed ten local workers in the Mänttä, Finland town archive. Here she is portraying real people with real lives and the work has a much greater vitality.

† it is acknowledged that Morrissey’s Seven emulates generic family snaps rather than actual ones.
‡ the full title of the image is Fig. 04287KEL (TM) G. A. Serlachius Oy’s workers at Loukkusuo peat bog. One Woman. 1943 / 2015. Mänttä, Finland, from Ten People in a Suitcase.


1. Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and narrative. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

2. legislation.gov.uk (2006) Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 [online]. legislation.gov.uk. Available from http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/1/contents [Accessed 4 March 2020].

3. Citizens Advice (2020) What are hate incidents and hate crime? [online]. citizensadvice.org.uk. Available from https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/discrimination/hate-crime/what-are-hate-incidents-and-hate-crime/ [Accessed 4 March 2020].

4. Kim, E. (2016) Nikki S. Lee’s “Projects”—And the Ongoing Circulation of Blackface, Brownface in “Art” [online]. contemptorary.org. Available from https://contemptorary.org/nikki-s-lees-projects-and-the-ongoing-circulation-of-blackface-brownface-in-art/ [Accessed 4 March 2020].

5. Cruz, A. (2007) Nikki S. Lee [online]. website. Available from https://www.x-traonline.org/article/nikki-s-lee [Accessed 4 March 2020].

6. Boothroyd, S. (2016) Trish Morrissey [online]. photoparley.wordpress.com. Available from https://photoparley.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/trish-morrissey/ [Accessed 5 March 2020].

7. Sanderson, D. (2019) Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo writes off ‘cultural appropriation’ [online]. thetimes.co.uk. Available from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/booker-winner-bernardine-evaristo-writes-off-cultural-appropriation-bklfsqhgk [Accessed 5 March 2020].