Visual Anthropology

SELF PORTRAIT: Scrap Book Assignment #1

Self portrait of me as a bearded happy hippie. Believe this was in 2009.

Self portrait of me as a bearded happy hippie. Believe this was in 2009.

Before the invention of the mirror, it was incredibly difficult if not impossible to see oneself visually. Mirrors allow us to see ourselves visually, but even this is an illusion, as the image that we see in a mirror is distorted.

Today we are constantly seeing ourselves in the form of digital images. Very few of these images are ever printed onto paper and displayed proudly on a fridge like a child’s artwork—and gone are the family photo albums, replaced with bits and bytes of digital information stored precariously in The Cloud. These images are also all too easy to manipulate, we can digitally remove wrinkles, take off a few pounds, and otherwise make us look different than how we really appear in physical space.

We view ourselves on computer screens, on TV monitors and on Smartphones—to save money, I use Skype or Yahoo Messenger to “call” my relatives, allowing myself to be seen as well as heard. But the image I convey over Skype with my parents is very different than the image I portray with my friends over Facebook.

The virtual age has allowed us more than ever to present several different versions of ourselves to the world.

The Mike, is the persona I present to my closest friends—who to identify me against all the other Mike’s in the world have chosen (maybe in tribute to The Rock) to take to calling me The Mike.


The MIke cheering on The Mike’s beloved Toronto Maple Leafs who will win The Stanley Cup again…eventually! Hopefully in The Mike’s lifetime.

Then there is Michael Rice the almost life-long student who has been in and out of colleges and universities almost continuously since the year 2000. Honestly, I should have at least one PHD by now and be teaching lectures instead of taking them.

I started out in Print Journalism which leads me to the personas of Michael Rice the writer, and Michael Rice, the photographer.

Michael Rice the student photographer. The shirt reads: "I sold my other T'Shirt to pay my tuition fees."

Michael Rice the student photographer. The shirt reads: “I sold my other T’Shirt to pay my tuition fees.”

From 2000 to 2006 when I finally made the switch to digital, I think I must have taken at least 150,000 photographs—and how I saw myself was as a photographer until about 2008. It defined my existence, and was for a time, how I made my living doing photographs of people’s weddings, photographing bands for their CD cover, etc. but that industry pretty much vanished with the invention of cheaper and cheaper digital cameras, and now everyone with a cellphone THINKS they are a photographer.

So after a couple years of working off and on at various “crap jobs” in Toronto, I decided that it would be worthwhile to go back to school and initially decided to take a French/English program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay Ontario. After the first year, where I failed French despite my best efforts only ending up with a 47% I decided that French wasn’t really my thing and switched to Anthropology.

I spent the next year in Thunder Bay, but having family and friends in Toronto and not really liking the cold, in 2nd year I began to investigate other University Anthropology programs and applied to transfer to both York University and McMaster in Hamilton.

Regrettably, York University sent me an offer first and rushing the gun I accepted York, when I really feel I would have been happier and learnt more practical skills at McMaster, as I was unaware just how crappy the “Anthropology” program at York was. How York can even call their program Anthropology when they almost completely ignore Biological Anthropology, Physical Anthropology and Archaeology in favour of 4 years of Social-Cultural Anthropology which can be summed up in two words, Colonialism Sucks, is completely beyond me. Really there are few differences between a York Anthropology Degree and a York Sociology degree and both are pretty damn useless.

So this has resulted in seeing my image as a bitter, disillusioned York Student who is just killing time and trying to pass all my courses, not because I really care, but because I want to at least get good enough grades to satisfy my OSAP requirements and finally graduate at the end of the year.

I also see myself going on to take something more practical, and something more likely to result in some sort of meaningful employment, so I am considering doing what I should have done 4 years ago and applying to go into Chef/Culinary Management training. So very much I am a figure in transition, moving in flux between different life worlds as I seek to explore who I am, and what I want to do with my life—as time creeps ever forward, slowly robbing me of what is left of my youth.


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