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Because actually all of this is already out there in the world, and can be seen by anyone with an internet connection [...] the exhibition is in a way an extension to a computer screen.

Willem Popelier


The way we present ourselves on the internet has changed heavily since the advent of social networking websites such as Facebook.

Katie Ellis


It has been argued by such differing theoreticians as Winnicott and Foucault that there are various ‘gazes’ which help to control, objectify, define and mirror identities to us. Sometimes these gazes are loving or benevolent, but often they are more intrusive and surveilling.

Rosy Martin & Jo Spence


Once I feel myself observed by the lens everything changes : I constitute myself in the process of ‘posing’, I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image.

Roland Barthes



The internet provides an alternative place to play out our identities. How can we tell the difference between ‘real’ identities, the ones we assume and the ones others choose for us? We use our images online in places ranging from dating websites to social networking sites. How do we know what is ‘real’?Using appropriated images, SEARCHexamines how people use the internet as a tool, how we perform our identities online and the removal of privacy in the digital age. It subsequently comments on the idea of orphan images.

The images are taken from dating websites, the FBI most wanted website and websites that help find missing people. These three distinctly different sources spark questions of representation. The images on dating websites are chosen by us, the most wanted by the FBI and the images of missing people are often chosen by their families. There is no way of knowing if these identities are real. Is the person on the dating website telling the truth? Is the image actually of them? Are the FBI using truthful representations of their suspects? Does the love of a mother trying to find her missing child cloud her perceptions of them? The one thing they all have in common is that they all need to be found.

Obviously ethical and privacy concerns come to light when using such subject matter. The images have been chosen to provoke thought and highlight the issues of privacy on the internet, the performance of identity and how the internet is used as a tool. Willem Popelier, speaking about his project Showroom Girls, also dealing with sensitive images, comments ‘She is just one example of many. It is not about her specifically, and at the same time it is about nothing but her.’ This project seeks to use these images as examples of wider issues that are not limited to the subjects in this set. 

By revealing only the sources but not the matching images, the viewer is then set on a journey of creating their own narratives for the images. This also helps protect the subject’s privacy.

The low quality pixellated aesthetic echoes back to the images’ origins, the internet. Distinguishable from a distance, the images grow more distorted the closer the viewer gets. This draws the viewer in and invites them to consider the issues at hand.

Displayed on reverse acrylic mounts, the deep gloss contrast created by this method mimics the computer screen the images were taken from.

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