''The self-portrait is generally considered to be an act of introspection, a search for the truth of the self''. Jean Francois Chevrier
That statement was written some time ago and, in an age when taking a photographic self-portrait was technically and logistically more difficult than it is today, it was probably a truism to say that a self-portrait was regarded as, more often than not, a serious act of self-exploration. In today's age of the selfie I would suggest that the self-portrait is now less a formal portrait and, more often than not, an act of flamboyant exhibitionism.
In the same essay as the above statement was written the author also writes: ''In the age of naturalism in art, the photograph was thought to be 'true' to nature...however, by the end of the twentieth century, the truth of the self and belief in the objectivity of the photographic record have perished simultaneously. Every self-portrait, even the simplest and least staged, is the portrait of another''.
Some would find this a provocative statement, others an unnerving one. The idea that a self-portrait is a portrait of merely another image of ourselves rather than the 'truth' of ourselves suggests we can never represent us truthfully in any fundamental way, only produce a series of portraits that capture a transient moment. Chevrier seems to be saying that every self-portrait, no matter how 'natura'l we try to be as we take it, is inevitably 'staged'. The facial expression we capture, the background against which we place ourselves, the lighting we choose whether daylight or from a flash-gun, what we are wearing in the act of taking the photograph, all of these make it a 'performance' of sorts. But then, as TS Eliot wrote in The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock isn't this what we do, subconsciously, countless times a day...'prepare a face to meet the faces that we meet'? During the act of taking a self-portrait, isn't the face reflected in the lens inevitably too self-aware to be anything other than wearing one of the many metaphorical 'masks' we put on throughout the day as we move from one place and situation to another.