A series of self-portraits where strangers stand it for the photographer.
Words by Gian Cruz and photos by Gian Cruz
It might seem odd at first but, in You as Me, we’re really looking at a series of self-portraits. Not only that, Gian Cruz actually considers them the most intimate portraits he’s ever taken of himself.
This project is basically a series of self-portraits where Gian invites other people to stand-in for him. Three years in and, by now, over 200 people have posed as Gian and embodied a facet of himself.
The idea behind it first came to mind in late 2012 after he moved from Seoul back to Manila. It was a period of great unrest, both personally and professionally. Gian felt stuck between a choice of being a full-fledged curator and investing some of his time pursuing the dream of being a practising artist.
To stimulate his art practice, he developed the idea of something apparently simple on the outset but that allowed him to go deeper and deeper. The idea had much to do with him getting over himself: he started doing self-portraits with other people standing in for him.
Originally, it did feel a bit like a vanity project, as he’d only shoot people very close to him. However, as time went by, the project started taking a new lease and he decided to include people outside his immediate social circle: people he just met on the spot and complete strangers.
In the beginning, it was an obsession to render everyone in this staged representation of himself while at the same time getting over himself; but somewhere along the lines, it also taught him more about himself and revealed a lot of things he had never really imagined.
Posing for a portrait is a performative act that plays up to the camera “who we pretend to be”, “who we are conditioned to be” or “who we think we are”*. Furthermore, this “who we are” is never fully independent from what other people make of us. In that sense, You as Me is profoundly telling of the multitude of perceptions we project.
When Gian requests his models to pose as him, dressed as he does, the subjects start performing a particular notion they have of him.
Now, with over 200 portraits, the project has turned into a deep research on identity and projection, a journey of self-discovery through the optic of others. They might look redundant, but each one represents a certain aspect of the artist at a certain point in his life and the people he crossed with then.
In this sense, You as Me is a revealing obsessive collection of fragments of oneself and of the multitude of facets one projects – almost a flip book of the photographer’s Self for the past 3 years.