Self Portrait: Facebook
72″ x 48″
I have a love / hate relationship with Facebook. I use it almost every day to keep in touch with distant friends and family, to keep up with the news of the day, and to share the various highlights and high points of my day. I love that I can do this.
But the fact that I only share the highlights (and that you only share your highlights) makes Facebook an interesting lens through which to view each other. Further, the experience is curated by an algorithm that makes sure I see more of the things that I like to see from the people I like to see them from, which can distort my view of the world. I hate this distortion.
So who I am, on Facebook at least, is largely formed by my network — the people I have “friended” and what that tells Facebook about me. This self portrait grew out of the idea of how my network of friends defines my “self”.
I took the profile photos of the first 144 friends who gave me permission to do so and fed them into a free downloadable program called AndreaMosaic. The software created a composite photomosaic based on my profile picture, which I also provided. The resolution was not great, so I added an additional 144 photos that these same friends had previously used as profile pictures. This provided much better resolution. I configured the software to use everyone’s profile photo at least once and to not repeat any single image too frequently. After several iterations, I finally had a composite that I was happy with.
I printed out the photomosaic and counted up how many of each image I needed. The quilt is 34 squares across and 51 tall, for a total of 1734 squares. Many of the images were included just once or twice, but others appeared scores of times. I assembled the images into 4 x 6 prints and ordered the prints that I needed. I then divided the composite image into 6 x 6 blocks, cut out the images for each block, and sewed them together. A video of this process is below.
Once I had all of the blocks completed, I laid them all out to make sure I had them all oriented correctly. Then I sewed the blocks together into the final photoquilt self portrait.
The finished photoquilt is clearly inspired by Chuck Close’s portraits, of which I’ve always been a fan. And like Close’s work, the experience of this portrait is very different when you are 18 inches away and when you are 18 feet away. The further away from the work you get, the more your eye merges the collection of images into pixels that form the larger whole. But up close, each individual is clearly visible.