What some people think is revealing, others see as hiding. What some people think is hiding, others see as revealing.

Artist Blog by Jocelyn Allen

With my self-portraiture work, I have always felt that it goes between hiding and revealing.

Reality of Youth Going Backwards in Vain was quite revealing, whilst I hid behind my family in One Is Not Like The Other. In The Many Faces of JFA at the time I felt like it was revealing and I wondered what people would think about me baring my shoulders in the photos. Also the individual pictures at time were quite unflattering. Your Mind & Body Is All That You’ve Got parts I & II went between hiding and revealing quite a lot. In some I was revealing more flesh, in some I revealed but hid my face, some pictures were unflattering, whilst in others I just hid. Showing diary entries in part II was also very revealing for me.

I guess that 2013 was a turning point for me in some ways.

My work has grown out of losing my confidence at a young age after moving from a city to a smaller town. I think that the majority of people find their teenage years tough for one reason or another (or several) and what confidence I may have had definitely went then, but I wouldn’t be who I am now without my past and using myself within my work has definitely helped me become more confident. I would have laughed at you if you’d told me 6 years ago that I would make projects with myself in them, let alone if you’d told me that I would make over 1000+ dance videos to post on YouTube.

I’d applied to do an MA in Photography at the London College of Communication with the intention of making work based on my diaries. I spent a lot of time prior to starting typing them up and I realised how much I got yelled at in the street and how many people said things to me at high school about how I looked and dressed. True I went around in baggy bright green cords and purposely wore clothes to try to make myself look different, as I felt like everyone wanted to be the same. My friends and I were into rock music and so we got called names a lot. I had a weird haircut for a bit and after having to get it cut short in order for it to look ‘normal’ enough to get a job, I got the original taunts of ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ Anyways, I was going out in London by myself wearing an animal hat made of 20+ cuddly toy heads that I had made for another project to try to get people to say things to me. I chose a hat as I’ve always felt uncomfortable wearing them since I was about 9 and tormented by two younger girls for a hat I had then. A guy who was high on something whispered to me that I had a menagerie on my head as he was scared for me, I was shown a comedy routine that a guy had just performed at an open event, another guy asked me if I liked to wear leather trousers and a lot of people would indiscreetly take pictures of me whilst I pretended to read a book. I found it quite interesting that just by wearing a slightly weird hat people were more open to talking to me, whether they were creepy or not, and maybe I should have played with this more but I actually just found that it made me anxious about going outside. So I thought about what I could do where I wouldn’t have to leave the house but people would say things to me.

The internet. Youtube.

I’ve always loved dancing, but I’ve never been good at it. My ballet teacher said that I danced like an elephant. I was 5 but I don’t think much has changed. I posted under a pseudonym so that people wouldn’t just think that I’m an artist, and though I use it I’m not pretending to be anyone else. I have always loved music and it’s nice to share songs that I like with other people. I always read comments after articles as people easily get offended or off topic or start a fight with someone, so I was surprised that I was getting some nice comments too (but I did high five myself when I received my first insult). 1000 seemed like a good round number to do but I’m still making videos now, but I will stop when I feel that I no longer get anything from it. I have definitely changed from when I first started to post them. The series is called Your Dedication Worries Me A Little, after a comment that I received.

I started Your Dedication… at the beginning of 2013, and was experimenting with other videos that more autobiographical and based on diaries but I felt like they were too much. I will probably never show most of them to people. I should note that on my MA I had to leave the room whilst people were watching them as I found it too embarrassing, or just sit and doodle and try to distract myself.

I was looking to make a photography project as I kept changing my mind about whether or not the dance videos were part of my MA. I had to leave my flat as it was being sold and took my friend’s room for a few months. Her housemate was never in so it seemed like a good time to take my clothes off and jump around in the corridor. I liked how it looked, so Covering The Carpet began. Your Mind & Body Is All That You’ve Got had in a way built me up for a project involving nudes and though I don’t proclaim to have many favourites in photography, one of Edward Weston’s Nude on Sand, 1936 photos must be in my top 5. I like that it could have been shot yesterday, and that nude photography generally has that quality too.

Taking pictures is one thing, but showing them to others is completely different. Shooting self-portraits gives you a lot of control as you don’t have to worry about if the other person doesn’t like how they look. I started to take more nudes with the intention of trying to make (some of) them look abstract, like they had been manipulated but they hadn’t. I found that the one thing I was concerned with was showing my pubic region. The media told us that 2014 was ‘the year of the bush’ and my critical context paper was called: ‘Female Self-portraiture in the Twenty-Tens: Self-expression or Self-exploitation?’ I interviewed several young women about why they made their work and I found it very empowering, as well as the body-positive movement that I saw online. I felt like it was the right time to make a nude project and though in class I was a bit hesitant about showing them, but now having seen them hang on a few walls I don’t think much about it. The project is very much about hiding and revealing, revealing my body to an extent, but also hiding it. I don’t show my face as I didn’t think it was necessary. I like that in some the body looks a little less human in some photos and a face would have definitely ruined it…

Since finishing I decided that I didn’t want to make a project for a while and just shoot single images, but even when you try to not make a project your mind (my mind) is still interested in certain things. I’ve started to shoot other people a little bit now and I’m easing myself back into photographing in the outside world as I’ve been confined to my house ‘studios’ for a little too long. Watch this space…

Supported by our main online partner