“I celebrate myself, and sing myself/ And what I assume, you shall assume/For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…” Whitman’s “Song of Myself” invoked the spirit of the afternoon’s workshop wherein visiting photographer, Linda Troeller, asked participants to look within a hand-held mirror and describe what they saw. Troeller, author of Healing Waters, Erotic Lives of Woman, and The Chelsea Hotel Atmosphere, shared with workshop participants a collection of self-portraits, a journey of self documentation which began accumulating with a Leica camera in 1976. Troeller is known for her use of color, emotion, blur and mood and utilizing portraits and self-portraiture. Her collection highlights a career which embraces the lives of all whom she has encountered from family, to touchstone photographers, and highlights emotional transitions.
As each participant explored themselves in the mirror, noting the images conjured through self reflection, Maureen Alsop, workshop instructor, and Linda Troeller discussed the exploration of “self” through image and language. The development of a sense of identity, internal power, and a deeper connection with living can manifest through the creative process of self portrayal.
Participants were asked to record five statements on themselves and share this with the group. From the raw energy of these drafts Alsop and Troeller, a collaborative photo team, helped each student evolve their presentation into unique portraits based on impressions from the written summations. One participant expressed morose on mortality, and subsequent portraits were set against the backdrop of a black refrigerator to capture the shade in his eyes. Backlighting one writer’s face against the room’s incandescent bulb captured the idea of “soullessness.” Another writer wrote of herself as motion, and through group discussion it was determined she should run against a garden setting to illicit the sense of air and movement within her written piece. Each writer received a copy of art-directed photo via email, and was asked to continue to write, exploring in greater depth the uniqueness of their portraitures.
You were the threads of a song long flightless, scatter-briar through counties. And you, with your veiled names, she who had seen—O, you’d seen the teeth of a few men’s mind. More dry the air. Mirror leaked confessions. And fewer notes. The subtlety of water. – Maureen Alsop
Linda Troeller is an international photographer and artist with books including Healing Waters, Aperture, Spa Journeys, powerHouse Books, Chelsea Hotel: An Artist’s Memoir among others. She has exhibited at many museums including the Ludwig Forum for Contemporary Art, Aachen, Fotogalerie Forum, Frankfurt, University of the Arts, Philadelphia to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in the USA. Her photographs of water, women and fashion are commissioned for hotel décor and by private collections from Toskana Therme, Bad Sulza, Bad Orb to the Musee de L’Elysee, Switzerland. Her photographs are in publications from Art Forum, Marie GQ to the New York Times.
She won Pictures of the Year, 1992 for her world-famous spa image, “Jacuzzi, Calistoga Hot Springs, Ca.” She has a MFA from School of Art, and a MS from Newhouse School, Syracuse University and a BS in Journalism, West Virginia University. She was a professor of photography at Indiana University, Stockton College, New Jersey, Bournemouth College, England and Parsons School of Design. She lives and works at her studio in at the Chelsea Hotel, NYC.