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World of One: Death of Narcissus | Johnny Tang Photo

World of One: Death of Narcissus

Death of Narcissus
2019

Death of Narcissus is a homage to Hippolyte Bayard’s Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man, one of my favorite early photographs (and one of the world’s first selfies!). While the technical setup for this image has been floating around in my head for years. It wasn’t until I saw this Vox video reminding me of Bayard’s picture, that the inspiration for the narrative came to me.

Hippolyte Bayard is a pioneer and inventor of photography in who lived in 19th century France. But he was was overlooked by the French Academy of Sciences in favor of his rival Louis Daguerre, who was both a better salesman and better connected. In response, Bayard sent the Academy members copies of Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man in protest. This might sounds tame by today’s standards, but it’s actually a big fuck you to the academy. You see, Daguerre’s process could only produce a single copy of an image. If you wanted two copies, you’d have to photograph the same photo twice. But Bayard’s process was able to produce multiple copies. Which he so demonstrates by sending this image below to the academy members.

Self Portrait as a Drowned Man

I used Bayard’s image as the inspiration for the themes and composition of Death of Narcissus, while adding my personal twist on it. I titled this piece with the reference to Narcissus, to tie it in with my other reflection based self-portraits in the World of One. But also because in some versions of the myth, Narcissus dies by suicide.

This picture was technically difficult in hiding the camera while shooting my reflection straight on. While I think I at least solved that issue, the framing makes the reflections harder to read as reflections. Next time, if I get the chance, I’d probably shoot this in bar.

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