People Who Look Like Me
The first artist in the 1 Artist 1 Concept series is San Francisco resident Alice Shaw. Her book, People Who Look Like Me, involves having herself photographed with friends, family, and other bystanders whom she feels she shares common traits with.
Alice Shaw's work finds certain unease in the art world. It is distinctly part of it, yet utterly not. It is honest, self-deprecating, frank, seemingly casual, and above all, egoless. The latter is where the friction with the art world begins. Rather than articulate the grand virtuoso performance, so coveted in the art market, Alice brings forward a community building exercise, a notion whose premise is so contrary to our basic sense of individual identity that it can be mistaken for comedy. Alice photographs herself with people she thinks she looks like, or with whom she feels she shares some similarity. She actually doesn't "photograph" them at all. As a photographer, she breaks the cardinal rule of photography: take your own pictures. Shaw relinquishes control of her camera by enlisting the photographic talents of a passerby. The shots have the casual signature of a tourist's snapshot.
Her project is a conceptual act in which Alice, as Director, creates an enlightening scene. It is not about the photographic document as much as it is about the activity of uniting people in a search for identity. She reveals the beauty in our shared connections. In this body of work she has taken the theory that sometimes when we photograph, we are pointing the camera at something we see reflected in ourselves. What she has done is come out from behind the camera and posed for the photographs with a subject she sees mirrored in herself. Alice explains,
It was no accident that the invention of photography and the inception of psychology happened simultaneously. They have always paralleled one another, and I feel there still remains much in common between the two disciplines. They introduced two new languages. They were two new structures to read how we see things.
The difficulty in placing Alice's work in a context reminds us that the search for identity is an unwelcome pursuit in contemporary culture. Behind all the impulses to be like someone else, all the marquees and loud speakers urging us to ignore our own identity, Alice reminds us, one person at a time, that we have more in common than we think.