This week I had two different conversations with friends about self portraits. The questions were both the same: "why do I take pictures of myself?" I get the feeling that most people who aren't into photography think it's some sort of vanity project when in reality it actually has nothing to do with vanity or being vain. I thought I would blog a post about what I see as the benefits of self portraiture and why I choose to express myself this way.
Besides the obvious reasons of expressing myself as an artist and documenting a moment in my life, taking self portraits is a lesson in self-love and self-acceptance. We are bombarded with images of what society deems to be perfection but there is no such thing. Especially true for women, we are made to feel "less than" by commercial and print ads telling us that we will never be beautiful enough, tall enough or thin enough to walk the runway at a Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. We look in the mirror and see our flaws. My hips carry too much fat, my age spots are getting darker, a new wrinkle has shown up below my lip.
Taking self portraits is a fun and silly thing. Running back and forth to the camera, trying to get the focus where you want it, working different poses, smiles, funny faces. You notice your boob hanging out or your underwear showing. You giggle at yourself. For a few minutes, your inner child comes out to play as you pose like your favorite movie star or model. Then, when you look back at your self portraits, you see the little adventure you took yourself on in order to achieve the image. Your not looking at your crooked smile or lazy eye. You don't notice the laugh lines or those extra holiday pounds. You see YOU. The unique, beautiful, fun, silly YOU. And you realize I am enough.
You can take your image into a free program like Picnik or even Photoshop and make art out of your self portrait. Change the tones, make it high key, low key, turn it to black and white. Blur out your wonky bits and if that wrinkle really bugs you, then go ahead and erase it. It's not about the end result, but about the journey you took to get there. And Photoshop is healthier and cheaper than plastic surgery. ;)
I encourage all of you who read this post to take a self portrait. If you've never taken one before, the first one is a little scary but once you post it, you will discover that others don't see the flaws that you see and that you are most likely too hard on yourself. As you begin to lose the fears, the walls come down and you become open to self acceptance, to self love. And that is a precious gift to yourself.
*my little journey for these self portraits included taking about 20 shots with the word JOY backwards before I realized it and nearly bringing the tree down as I tripped over the light cord. That's what I see when I look at these...my silly, clumsy self...but, I love her anyways. :)