I/We Conflict

by Elizabeth Raymer Griffin

I spend a tremendous amount of time analyzing my motivations, tendencies, and weaknesses. Self-portraiture is a therapeutic self-examination where I play-out the process of struggling to live my life without abnormal levels of guilt, anxiety, and fear. I photograph myself as various internal characters to act out psychological meanderings, memories, intrinsic dramas and attempts at personal growth and change. I have always been aware of and reliant on the intuitive power of the self-portrait to reveal and influence my behaviors.

For this collection of photographs, I am working to change a specific behavior. When I speak and say ‘I’ internally I am always thinking ‘We.’ Characterized as a dissociative identity disorder, this is an odd coping mechanism carried over from childhood. This annoying and sometimes troubling habit is the basis of a series of photographic self-portraits, titled, (the) I/We Conflict.

For nearly two decades I have worked primarily with the self-portrait. It has always been ‘We’, never ‘I’ in my work. Since the very start of my family pathology work, I was unaware of the existence of my I/We conflict. For almost a decade, I unconsciously grouped my portraits into diptychs and triptychs creating multiplicity. After being diagnosed with this disorder a few years ago, this was quite a revelation to me. The new photographs address this hidden layer of a narcissist/co-narcissist struggle. In this project, I am attempting single portrait pieces just as I am trying to be ‘I’ and not ‘We’ (although more than one of me still appears from time to time.) Another theme that greatly complicates the attempt to feel individual rather than an assemblage was the birth of my son where duality is a necessity.

To create most of these pieces, I am shooting through an 11x14 view camera with a DSLR. The term for this process is called ground glass imagery. In the work I am exploring ideas of projection/reflection using the ground glass as a way to visually mediate this ‘I/We’ conflict.

Photographer Elizabeth Raymer Griffin works with the self-portrait as a vehicle for personal examination. She received her MFA in photography from Indiana University in 2006 and her BA from Columbia College Chicago in 2003. She taught as an adjunct instructor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a decade.

She is currently living in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband, Matt, and their son, Argus.



From the Editor

I was recently introduced to Griffin’s work during our submission process for Diffusion IX this past year. I was struck by the personal narrative and was compelled to share more of her work for our new Poignant Portfolio series. Griffin’s I/We concept of duality is further driven home by her use of digital capture through an analog machine. We published one of these images in our “Geometric Personalities” section of Diffusion IX–if you’re curious to see what else is in there, visit the Diffusion Marketplace. Thanks for reading!

–Blue Mitchell

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