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                                'Kaimana and the Hunting Dogs' (2017)

"I am a person that gets overwhelmed by her feelings. Some might say I am too melodramatic, too intense, too prone to peering into the depths. For my whole life I have struggled with how to see myself. I have asked myself again and again: am I bad or am I good; am I a bringer of chaos or of life; am I beautiful or am I hideous? This splitting has been fundamental. I have spent my whole life wishing I could accept myself for all that I am rather than trying to hide certain parts, disguising myself from others, fearing my own power, and feeling shame for basically not being perfect.

I approached Diogo about doing a portrait at a time in my life when I had talked through all of this in therapy - how it was affecting my relationships, my quality of life, and impacting on my career. I was tired of only words and wanted to try something that might get to the parts that they clearly weren’t reaching. The first question I asked Diogo was whether he could somehow help me to pull all this together, if he could create an image that helped me to see and feel myself in a different way. It was a big challenge to him – asking if he could help me to find self-acceptance.

During the portrait planning process, we talked openly and I came to trust and believe in Diogo so much. He came up with the idea of a portrait that showed both my shadow, hidden side and the side of myself in the light. He wanted to capture the tension and dynamism in this duality. The studio shoot was incredible. When Diogo pointed the camera at me I felt I was really being seen and it made me feel so alive. In studio, he didn’t pose me, he just asked me to feel all I wanted to express and then to play with how I moved my face, my hands, my body. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to do this but he guided and supported me through the whole process and I really believed in him as a photographer.

In this portrait, Diogo has set me amongst the ‘Hunting Dogs’ constellation. I feel wonderfully monumental, almost beyond human. This really suits me as my feelings do often feel just that huge to me. When I look at it I see my full self – my strength and beauty, my frailty and uncertainty. But, it doesn’t scare me anymore. I feel exciting, mysterious and full of potential. I may not always get things right but this woman is one who throws herself into life."

After working with Jessica on a previous PhotoBard® portrait we developed an incredibly close relationship. She had revealed so much about herself in the process that I ended up with loads of material I did not use in the first portrait. Creating a psychological portrait is always ambitious and of course you quickly realise that each portrait is reflective of an aspect of a person’s psyche, or about a poignant moment in their lives – but they are never complete. We all have a wealth of stories to tell and so did Jessica.

Because she has an interesting relationship with her shadow self, I was immediately attracted to this as inspiration as it struck a cord with my own self-portraiture where I explore the concept of self-acceptance through the medium of photography. My approach to this portrait

Jessica Mitchell's psychological portrait by Diogo Duarte

of Jessica was completely different to the first; because we were shooting in studio without any props or a sense of place it wasn’t so orchestrated and so it was more organic. It definitely required more openness from her and she needed to trust me more as she had no idea of what it would look like in the end.

I see Jessica here as the bringer of chaos, but also of life. I see the red side of her face and her hands as her shadow self. Jessica’s red side of the face is in darkness and almost looks like a mask. The red hands are bringing chaos, but she’s also creating change and life. The blue side of her face - the side in the light is keeping a watchful eye of the entire process. I suppose to me this image is about a wrestle, a struggle between the two sides and a search for balance which is what to me her hands are doing. 

Her ‘light’ side looks exhausted but also determined and challenging. I love Jessica’s expression - she looks tired but also full of determination and energy - like she’ll never falter. 

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