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Antoun Final H (2012_11_14 21_06_18 UTC)


" The Photograph is a Protective Chamber that safeguards the Moment and Immortalizes  the Soul ~ Joanna Gagnier"

Polymorphism: Surrounded by Intrinsic Apparitions

A beautiful innocent little girl is plagued by disturbing visions of herself as a distressed adult, or the mature apparition of this identical girl is desperately haunted by her past. The photograph patiently documents her life as a record of existence through space and time. It is but the life of one individual depicted in a multitude of forms. These ethereal images capture the individual’s soul and discard the exoskeleton of the physical body. The soul is no longer imprisoned within its macrobiotic host, but enjoys brief moments of freedom while it travels back and forth through the astral plane before being incarcerated within a specific moment.

This paper serves as a formal accompanying statement for a series of nine black and white images depicting two forms of one individual: her childhood as a seven year old and during midlife at 40 years of age. The child-morph discovers images of a troubled older-self and later emerges from a distant timeframe in order to discover a distressed version of her mature-morph that is captured within a future time dimension. The adult-morph is at first oblivious of the apparent resurrection of her former self, but is later antagonized by visions of her two distinct selves engaged in active interaction with one another. The older morph is constantly harassed by spectral visions accompanied by voices of her younger morph. The final image of the series hints towards a convergence of time where both morphs are finally sharing the same moment.

Barthes (1981) argues that each of these moments becomes the referent in order to suggest the authenticity of that particular instance. Moreover, Barthes (1981, p 82 & p 87) refers to each moment as a “reality in a past state” – “a certificate of presence”. The moment existed – the little girl in mature form was there lying distraught in the snow while she contemplated the countless realities that shaped her life; the puerile morph witnessed the debacle! Barthes clearly suggests a paradox of an illogical collocation between the here-now moment and the there-then moment (Haverkamp, 1993).  The here-now is not reality, but the there-then is real – it happened, it is a recorded moment in history (Haverkamp, 1993). The recorded moment serves as evidence; however, Barthes (1981) describes this evidence as a time-based hallucination. The depicted moment is true to time, but false to perception (Barthes, 1981). 

The countless photographically captured moments of a life in chronological arrangement serve as individual vestibules that harbor the soul. The disembodied soul does therefore conform to the depicted moment as it morphs from one physical form to the other within the recorded life’s time frame. This metamorphosis occurs in the forms of hatching, doubling, mutating, and splitting as discussed by Warner (2002). Hatching can be described as a process of innate metamorphosis that occurs naturally in accordance with an organism’s life stage (Warner, 2002). This dynamic property of physical change in form over time harbors the same inner core in the form of the soul. The soul remains intact as a static property of each stage; however, the process of doubling may suggest otherwise.

Doubling denotes the possible existence of a second self or doppelganger characterized by hauntings of alter egos (Roemer, 2006).  Roemer (2006) further states that a double can be obscured in another form and could manifest itself within the human psyche. The inner and outer selves could be in opposition to the other – as Emily Dickinsin wrote in one of her poems: “Ourself behind ourself, concealed” (American Poems, Jan 9, 2004). The concealed and perhaps disobedient selves could hint towards a Jekyll and Hyde dynamic (Roemer, 2006). Warner (2002) further suggests that metaphorical metamorphosis provides coping mechanisms and alternatives for relationships with the unknown. The individual portrayed within the discussed image series may have invited her younger or her older selves to her timeframe in order to allow herself to cope with her own reality. She could be surrounded by a multitude of intrinsic apparitions retrieved from past and future moments. This hints towards the Greek concept of anamnesis where life can be approached in a backwards fashion starting from death and progressing towards birth.  Barthes (1981) hints towards anamnesis when he deliberated the image of his mother as a young girl in “the Winter Garden photograph” – he refers to this deliberation as “the impossible science of the unique being” as this particular image revealed his mother’s truth and not merely her identity (p. 71).

Mutation is the process of physical metamorphosis where the actual shape of the being changes (Warner, 2002). Mutation is therefore a shape-shifting process where the morphed entity is not true to the form of its origins. Splitting refers to the actual departure from the original – a cloning process; however, the resulting clone or zombie is not controlled by its own will (Warner, 2002). 

The concepts of hatching and doubling are depicted within the Polymorphism image series. Hatching is evident within the active-interaction images where the here-now adult morph is opposed by the there-then versions of herself.  Doubling is illustrated where the here-now adult morph is expressing devastation and frustration while the there-then child morph is attempting entrance into the adult version’s time and space. The paradox between the moments is very clear. Splitting could also be applied to the there-then child morph’s entrance attempts into the adult morphs time and space zones, but splitting would suggest a clone of the child morph while doubling suggests heterogeneity between the original morph and the newly created double.  Mutation is not evident within the series as the actual resulting shape of the morphing process did not change.

Inspiration for the Polymorphism project is partially derived from contemporary artists Gillian Wearing, Noritoshi Hirakawa, and Lindy Lee that explore questions of identity derived from the self. The self is a socially constructed entity that can be analyzed from multiple perspectives. Gillian Wearing’s perspective addresses the way humans reconcile their outer selves with the true inner self (Art and, 2009).  Her self-portrait series (2003) where she constructs masks of the faces of her family, leaving only her eyes exposed, hint towards questions of identity. The Polymorphism series is more targeted towards the inner projection of identity rather than the outer projection as in Gillian Wearing’s work.

Noritoshi Hirakawa explores identity from a similar perspective as Gillian Wearing. Noritoshi Hirakawa involves an exchange of masks in his series “I am the Mother and I am the Daughter” (2002). Hirakawa does not explore the self per se, but explores identity through family relations especially within the context of the Japanese culture. The Polymorphism series is not culture-based, but are parallel to the mother-daughter concept as illustrated in Hirakawa’s “I am the Mother and I am the Daughter” (2002) series as a younger version of the mother can often be compared with an illusion of her daughter.

 Artist Lindy Lee’s “Birth and Death” (2003) involves depictions of the artist’s family at different stages of their life. Lindy Lee’s work directs questions of the self in relation to her heritage (, n.d.). Lee’s work is parallel to Barthes (1981) paradox between the here-now moment and the there-then moment, between the reality and the perception that is separated by the chronological notion of time and space. The Polymorphism project involves the extraction of specific moments within a particular life-time, similar to the depicted moments of relatives in Lee’s “Birth and Death” (2003) series.

Further inspiration for the Polymorphism series is obtained from New York video artist Tony Oursler who projected giant specters of the heads of mediums on buildings in his work “The Influence Machine” (2000).  The projections were staged in London’s Soho Park and New York’s Madison Square Garden.  Oursler mimicked his projections on 19th-century sound and light technology (, n.d.).  I strived to mimic Ourlser-like specters within select images of the Polymorphism image series in order to create a doubling effect of the child morph.

The many forms as signified by the title “Polymorphism” refer to the multiple life stages of the individual and the change in body size (including the aging process) that occurs over time and space. The series strives to suggest the co-existence of multiple selves depicted within the same time and space – a haunting notion.


American Poems (2004). American Poems. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from

Art and Culture. Com (2009). Art and Culture. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from

Barthes R. (1981). Camera Lucida. New York: Hill and Wang. 

Haverkamp, A. (1993). The Memory of Pictures: Roland Barthes and Augustine on Photography in Comparative Literature 45 (3) p. 258 – 279. Retrieved from J-Stor on December 5, 2010 at (n.d.). Tony Oursler: The Influence Machine. Retrieved December 2, 2010 from

Roemer, D. M. (2006). “Fantastic Metmorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self.” Marvels & Tales 20 (1) p117. Retrieved from Academic OneFile on December 11, 2010 at (n.d.). Sutton Gallery. Retrieved December 7, 2010 from

Warner, M. (2002).  Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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-Novelist and Conceptual Photographer-

Joanna Gagnier

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