As Paul McDonald’s renowned publication Study of Self, published in 2021, begins;
“Like everyone else I have at my disposal only three means of evaluating human existence: the study of self, which is the most difficult and most dangerous method, but also the most fruitful; the observation of our fellow men, who usually arrange to hide secrets where none exist; and books, with the particular errors of perspective to which they inevitably give rise.”
Study of Self is an amalgamation of images that find meaning in their interconnection. Portraits, landscapes, snapshots, references, notes and archival work are placed side by side to create a constellation of questions missing answers and answers to lost questions.
Paul McDonald is a socially engaged educator, artist and curator whose personal practice explores and creates a dialogue around masculinity and mental health. His practice is informed through research and the delivery of community participatory programs
He completed his Masters of Art – Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, in 2016, with Distinction, at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.
During his Masters, Paul began his major project Study of Self, an artistic undertaking which would consume him for the following 10 years.
Notions of masculinity have always concerned Paul throughout his work. In Study of Self, Paul looks to art historical constructions of masculinity and femininity, as divine ideals, sexual entities and political symbols. He references these historical ideas through his own contemporary portraits, at once investigating how men are represented and who they actually are.
The excerpt from Study of Self that will be on display at Queertography, as part of Pride Amplified, is a series of diptychs that give rise to concentrated bursts of contrast, contemplation and confusion.
Paul’s portraits of men in domestic or outdoor settings are juxtaposed with natural landscapes, shadows, reflections, and forgotten things. The naked men (some posed beautifully, others pensively, some awkwardly), stand out from their background, while also reflecting their surroundings.
Paul not only investigates different ideas of the male nude and wider ideas of portraiture through his mixed styles, but he also investigates the camera itself, as a means of representation.
Some images are in striking colour, others in grainy black-and-white, some use artificial light, while others make the most of dappled sunshine. The striking differences between each picture constantly remind the viewer that someone is behind the camera, making these directorial decisions. We are reminded that a subject doesn’t produce its own representation, someone creates it, and in this case, Paul does.
See Study of Self in Queertography at Paddington Reservoir Gardens (17 Feb-5 Mar), as part of Sydney World Pride.
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The Head On Photo Awards represent a global selection of the best work from emerging and established photographers across four categories: Portrait | Landscape | Environmental | Student