The Self-Portrait Experience (SPEX) is a non-profit association which brings together people from all over the globe who believe in the power of autobiographical art for individual transformation and social activism. Following are our principles, and below, our aims. If you share our philosophy and want to join us, please read the conditions and member benefits at the end of this article and click on “SUBSCRIBE”. You’ll be led to the Paypal page.

Our principles:

  • Expressing happiness or joy in pictures is what social norms expect us to do and how we generally like to appear. Due to social expectations to always be ‘strong’, ‘happy’ and ‘nice to others’, from an early age we are being taught to disregard and suppress more painful emotions. But these emotions need expression and sharing, so our aim is to freely and harmlessly express what we feel in our self-portraits and art projects.
  • Sharing emotions and needs through the publication of autobiographical images or projects can mirror back a mutual sense of humanity which supports identification rather than dissociation and alienation. Providing opportunities for such human connections is an encouragement to overcome social alienation and isolation and to draw social attention to human emotions and needs. The mirroring process can result in a useful training to liberate the empathic gaze.
  • SPEX wants to put art to the service of real human needs, as a way to make art more personal, more urgent, more effective, more understandable, more universal. The aim of SPEX is to produce art for the use of, and in collaboration with the community, as in the Deweyian notion of ‘popular art’ accessible to everyone and to demonstrate that anyone can take part in a creative process and even prepared/guided to produce artworks.
  • Why is SPEX transformative? Firstly, transforming emotions into artworks is a catalytic and liberating quality of the unconscious creative process in SPEX, which allows us to improve our emotional state. Secondly, working on the multiple perceptions of the images with SPEX criteria of perception is empowering because it allows us to broaden our self-perception and the perception of others, to discover unknown potential, to overcome self-judgement and to fulfil our mission and goals. Thirdly, the publication of our autobiographical images and projects works as an insurrection of subjugated knowledges (Foucault, 1977), which can inspire others to do likewise, and this is even more empowering.
  • Stigmatised people, during recovery from addiction or mental health issues, or in the process of desistance from crime, can overcome self-stigma with SPEX by discovering unknown potential which allows them to avoid the internalisation of stigma. When their self-image is empowered, they can fight stigmatisation by sharing this process to others. Both recovery and desistance involve a radical transformation of identity which influences both self-image and public image. Using SPEX, we “Recoverists” can inspire others to reconstruct their identity after critical or painful times.

Our aims (as evidenced in our bylaws – download below):

  1. To stimulate and promote the research and the dissemination of autobiographical art practices using photography and video, as instruments for individual and social transformation, through the SPEX dispositive.
  2. To hold SPEX workshops using photography and video as instruments for individual and social transformation, in the following contexts: Penitentiary centres, mental health facilities, addiction recovery facilities, youth centres, day centres for the ageing, hospitals and institutes for the severely ill and other social institutions. Cultural centres, museums, galleries, universities, academies, high schools, psychotherapy and art-therapy institutes, and other cultural and educational facilities. Private individuals, the general public and companies.
  3. To organize and participate in contemporary art exhibitions, in Switzerland and the rest of the world.
  4. To organize and participate in autobiographical art events, as an instrument for individual and social transformation.
  5. To organize and participate in research projects on autobiographical art as an instrument for individual and social transformation.
  6. To publish books and articles on print and/or digital format on autobiographical art as an instrument for individual and social transformation.
  7. To cooperate with other associations, public or private institutions to stimulate and promote the research and the dissemination of autobiographical art as an instrument for individual and social transformation.

The annual fee to become a SPEX member is normally 60€. But if you enrol before December 31st, 2019, the special price for the first three years is 50€!!! Subscription lasts one whole year, regardless of the date you enrolled.

Here are the 2020 benefits:

  • priority to enrol in all workshops
  • 5% additional discount in all workshops and books
  • access to all self-portrait exercises
  • free signature on my books
  • my comment on your photos or project on email or a Skype conversation (once a year)
  • three-month free test of the SPEX app (to be released before September 2020)