Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery

Staging the Self When we photograph ourselves, we often apply our own staging, sometimes unconsciously—we tend to choose our most flattering angles, lighting, backdrops, cropping and clothing. This was Samuel Fosso’s motivation when he began making self-portraits in Bangui, Central African Republic, in the 1970s. He costumed and posed himself to mimic photographs he saw in European catalogues and movies during off-hours in his portrait studio. "I wanted to show how good I look. That's what it was about," he said later about images such as his Self-portrait, in which he confidently shows off fringed shorts and disco boots, a highly unusual ensemble in the conservative culture of 1970s Bangui. Fosso kept these images private, only occasionally sharing them with family or close friends. In the 1990s, Fosso came to the attention of European and American art dealers, curators and collectors. Following exhibitions of his work and travel abroad, Fosso created another series of pictures of himself, this time going beyond the bounds of self-portraiture. For Série Tati, Fosso performed different characters, including the “Liberated American Woman of the 70s”—a caricature set in the same decade as his earlier self-portraits. Like Fosso, other artists featured in Staged model in their own photography, channeling identities that are not necessarily their own. Cornelia Hediger, Yasumasa Morimura, Cindy Sherman and Carrie Mae Weems also photograph themselves as characters in visual narratives. Their works are on view alongside staged photographs that reflect artists’ visions rather than their physical presence, including images by Benjamin J. Falk, Philippe Halsman, Eikoh Hosoe, Sandy Skoglund, Spencer Tunick, Barry Underwood and Joel-Peter Witkin, as well as a video by Sam Taylor-Wood. This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.