A modern attempt at reconstructing the 1932 self portrait of Wanda Wulz, titled “Myself and Cat”, this photograph is an introspective depiction of personal representation, both as a form of portraying a hidden, suppressed identity, as well as a form of expressing “the communality of humans and animals”, especially that relating to the female identity (Soper,1995).
Whereas Wulz merged her portrait with the face of her family cat, I chose to unite my own face with that of a lion instead, based on the idea that our “spiritual or cultural dimensions are […] analyzed in terms of needs that are common to both humans and non-humans” (Soper, 1995). The initial choice to recreate the original self-portrait was to explore the resulting image created through digitised manipulation in contrast to the composite negative prints on photographic paper through which Wulz had achieved her mixed portrait.
The contrast shown between the human and the animal face in the photograph was diluted by reducing the opacity of the overlaying layers of the lion face in order to create the illusion of constant continuity between the two identities: the palpable, human identity, and the inner, beast-like identity. The photograph is also in black and white in an attempt to add to the dream-like state of the emergence of the inner identity onto the human face. The darkness and volume of the hair in contrast to its surrounding is suggestive of a lion’s mane, fortifying the idea of the double-identity presented in the photograph. The background of the image is void of any details both as a reminiscent factor to Wanda Wulz’s original self-portrait, as well as a way to draw the viewer’s full attention to the meaning behind the woman-lioness contrast.
The most conflicting aspect of the photograph is the mismatched set of eyes, which serve as windows into two separate personalities. The sultry gaze in the human eye as opposed to the fierce look in the lion eye represent the two different sides to the female personality, ranging from the female sexuality depicted on the left side to the her fiery nature and fierce desire to fight for and protect her loved ones shown on the right side of the face. This relates to the ideologies of ecofeminism and the deeper connection between the women and nature, and their deeper desire to shelter their surroundings in general (d’Eaubonne, 1999). This warrior-like attitude is portrayed in the somber, unsmiling expression in both the female and the lion faces, showing that “although human beings possess capacities that distinguish them from other animals, thee do not render them different in kind” (Soper, 1995). This means that the characteristics shared between both identities portrayed in the photograph overlap between the female and the lion nature. This conclusion is shown through the attempt at subtlety in the blending of the human and the animal mouths into one, in a way signifying the idea that both identities have the same words and thoughts to share with the world.
d’Eaubonne, F. (1999) Feminism—Ecology. Ethics and the Environment. 4 (2), pp.175; 175-177; 177.
Soper, K. (1995) Feminism and Ecology: Realism and Rhetoric in the Discourses of Nature. Science, Technology, & Human Values. 20 (3), pp.311-331.