From Ancestral Time-Capsules to Golden Self-Portraits

Lindsay Siu, a renowned Vancouver-based photographer and director, was awarded a prestigious Gold in the 2023 Photography Awards for her self-initiated project titled “Self-Portraits, 2022.” The series, which pays tribute to the influential women in Siu’s family, beautifully captures the essence of self-identity, fashion, and cultural heritage. Through her artistic vision and meticulous attention to detail, Siu brings a collection of unique portraits to demonstrate her technical expertise, formalist composition, and narrative ability. Discover more about Lindsay Siu’s award-winning project and the inspiration behind her captivating self-portraits below.

By: Lindsay Siu

This project is a love letter to the women in my family, all of whom have helped shape me into the woman I have become. 

The inspiration for the series came about in 2021 while I was helping clear out my grandparents’ home before it was torn down for redevelopment. My family immigrated from Hong Kong and China in the 1960s, and it was in this house that my grandparents had, at some point in our lives, helped raise me and many of my cousins. 

Going back inside their home after many years away, nearly everything was in the same place as when I was a child. It was an ancestral time capsule filled with the memories of multiple generations. I found my grandmother’s clothing still hung perfectly in her closet, despite her passing many years before. Several pieces came with her from Hong Kong, while others came after she began her new life in Canada. I already had a collection of vintage wardrobes from my mother, her mother, and my three aunts, so my family allowed me to keep what I wanted. 

All the women in my family have been my role models. All are educated, hardworking, and loving. But my grandmother actively encouraged me to be strong and independent, advising me never to rely on anyone else to make my way in life. 

The women in my family (myself included) also love fashion, and, amazingly, we all share similar dress sizes and easily fit into each other’s clothing. Looking through all these vintage clothes, I thought about how these dresses were chosen and tailored by these important women in my life and how these clothes marked the journeys they took in their own lives. Many pieces had traveled from across oceans and found new homes and closets, decorating my life and my family’s history along the way. 

With respect to the aesthetics of the project, I have a background in art history and have always been drawn to formal portraiture. I love how the power of the artist’s gaze and the subject’s self-awareness reveal and suggest the subject’s character, whether by their pose and facial countenance, through a choice of clothing and jewelry, or even color palette. With this series, I was able to channel such diverse inspirations as Renaissance portraiture, contemporary artists Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman, and the recent phenomenon of NFT art. 

Speaking of NFTs while exploring self-identity and portraiture, I became curious about NFTs and how they challenged the monetization, and even definition, of “art” (Bored Ape Yacht Club et al.) I wondered if it could be possible to use photography to “mass-produce” entirely unique images instead of an AI program. I decided to create 60 nearly identical yet totally different portraits, with my and my family’s wardrobe as the subject. I chose the number 60 to reflect the passage of time—as in 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour.

Lindsay is a Vancouver-based photographer and director specializing in advertising, editorial, and entertainment. Her thoughtful imagery conveys a distinct vision combining the nuance of fine art photography with the clarity and purpose of commercial art. 

Some of her select clients include Toyota, MacDonald’s, The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, ABC, CBS, NBC, Netflix, Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros Studios. Her work has been recognized by Communication Arts, Applied Arts, American Photography, Graphis, the One Show, and three times in Luerzer’s Archive “200 Best Photographers Worldwide.” 

Through her personal work, Lindsay explores themes of societal norms, race, and cultural identity. In her current series, aptly titled Self-Portraits 2022, Lindsay models 60 unique outfits and hairstyles inspired by her family’s matriarchs, all of whom shared a love of fashion throughout the decades. The series not only demonstrates her technical prowess, formalist composition, and painterly lighting but also her gift for visual storytelling.

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Author: Graphis