In Laura Knapp’s self-portraits she explores her daily life in order to document how she changes, both physically and photographically, throughout her career as a photographer. The way she dresses for her shoots, the places she chooses and her body language come together to represent a particular emotion at a specific moment.
Catalina Piedrahita: Some might say that artists who work with self portraiture are dueling with a narcissistic complex. In my case, I sometimes duel with the opposite; I look for some sort of approval from the viewer to achieve satisfaction. Why do you feel the need to include your image in your work? Why be so aware of your physicality and how it changes throughout the years?
Laura Knapp: I can see how self-portraiture can be portrayed as a form of narcissism, but I don’t believe that’s the reason why I decided to self-portraits. To me, they are a study of my emotions and of my level of comfort through the process of making them. I am a quiet person and I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, which is why I don’t believe my self-portraiture is a display of my vanity. My images are an attempt to overcome vulnerability, to finally become comfortable showing myself in public. I use this medium to obtain attention in a less confrontational way, since I don’t have to actually be there in person and interact with the public.
I’ve been taking self-portraits since tenth grade, and I like watching myself physically and emotionally change over time. I believe the main reason I started taking photographs of myself is that I enjoy being the director, writer and actor in all of my images. As much as I love taking photographs of other people, I feel like I’m getting credit for another person’s personality and existence only because I’m the photographer. I did not follow my subjects around or lead them up to the moments when I photographed them.
CP: How do you decide which portrait is worth reaching the viewer? What requirements does it have to fulfill in order to be a finished piece ready for publication?
LK: Honestly, knowing which self-portraits to show is just a case by case experience. I take a lot of self-portraits in the same setup with lots of different poses and facial expressions to ensure that I like at least one of them. If I have and outfit, background and lighting situation that I feel confident with I usually know that I will have at least one photograph that I will want to display. There’s times when I’m just taking self-portraits without any real emotional attachment, and those tend to be the worst photographs. However, I try not to take photos unless I have a good feeling that they will live up to my personal vision. This way I don’t end up with pointless photos that I will just attempt to make more interesting through editing. It never works.
CP: I understand that your self portraits are for you to study your own process and to have some kind of perspective with the passing of time, but what do you expect the viewer to get from these photographs? Is there a specific concept or idea you want to get across?
LK: I sincerely hope that the viewer does not see my photographs as a waste of time because it’s just some girl doing dramatic poses in pretty mundane spaces. I always hope that I’m able to convey my dry sense of humor through photography. The reason I stand in awkward spots and make deadpan facial expressions in my photographs is because I don’t want people to take themselves so seriously. I find humor in almost everything, and I want to bring it into my photography because I find that not enough people make funny art. I think there’s a common misconception that art needs to be completely serious, which can make it intimidating and prevent it from inviting the viewer into the image. I also hope that the viewer will see a lot of my physicality in my self-portraiture; one of my favorite things in the entire world is setting my camera on self-timer and then running to an uncomfortable location, a little too far from the camera, hoping to make it there by the time the ten second timer goes off.
In any case, I do love hearing multiple interpretations of any piece of art, which is why I don’t want to force the viewer into thinking of my work a certain way.