Monday, November 7, 2011

more than a reflection

I got into self portraiture around the same time that I got my first dslr camera in 2009. At first, I explored self portraiture because I had a lack of models and was better at portraits than any other type of photography, but as time went on, I began to realize that self portraiture was a way for me to put myself into the scenes of my choice and exhibit my own story using my body and that scene.

I am a theatre major at university. I spend my school days collaborating with others and my nights in rehearsals, endeavoring to communicate with people as a character. I have to be conscious of my fingertips and feet and elbows and spine, the way I walk as a character, where I am spacially, what my face is saying, in short, everything that I use in self portraiture. When I do a self portrait, I am the designer, director, and actress. I combine aspects of what I have learned as a student of theatre with the art of photography, and the end result is my self portraiture.

I don't just go out randomly to take pictures of my beautiful face. When I take a self portrait, it isn't an attempt to feed my narcissism. I do self portraiture to convey something specific. Every portrait that I take has a purpose behind it. My digital self portraits are more refined than my film portraits, but I love film self portraits because of the raw honesty. What you see in these self portraits is the moment as it was - my posture, my hair, my face, where I was, what I was really feeling. It hasn't been manipulated. It's real.

It's easy to get away from reality when you're an actress. You live so much of your time in a character's head, or trying to figure out what is in their head, that you find yourself playing the character of yourself when you are away from the stage. Or at least, I did. I found that I was rarely completely honest with my friends and family. So I started an honesty project in which it was just me and my camera, and I endeavored to find honesty in moments of my life. When I felt like I was getting better at achieving that, I moved on to photographing honest portraits of my family and friends.

Self portraits are both an expression of who I am and what I feel (or sometimes, a character and their world) and a glimpse into the real dimensions of my world. They have taught me a lot about what it means to be me.

That is why I take self portraits. That is why I risk being called vain and narcissistic. That is why I wade into rivers in November or climb to the tops of mountains with a tripod or turn on my camera on the days I feel ugly and desperate.

If you don't take self portraits, I challenge to try. Try to photograph who you really are and what you want to be. See if it changes a small aspect of your life.

And if it doesn't, you'll still have photographs to show the you who tried.

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