February 9 2011 – Photographers, as well as other artists, often feel that it is sometimes difficult getting started and finding the inspiration. Or finding the feeling… and then we start feeling this frustration. Why not just get started? And start this journey with self portraits.
When I was a guest teacher in photography at a community college for two weeks in autumn of 2009, I gave the students an assignment and the assignment was “self portrait”. I felt that it could be a creativity opener. I believe, that if we see how we see ourselves, we find out everything else about ourselves. Perhaps we start understanding a bit more about who we are, in how we see ourselves in the way we choose to photograph ourselves. Maybe this opens up things more than we think.
To photograph oneself can sometimes be both sensitive and complex. We start thinking about all those inner images we have of ourselves…. and also the outer.
Who am I?
I have never photographed myself.
Somehow we experience this thing with self portrait as a very loaded topic. We are afraid of being perceived as something we’re not, such as self-absorbed persons. We don’t want to be perceived as persons that admire ourselves or that we’re fixated by our look. Taking self portraits with a camera or painting self portraits has somehow always been viewed at as some sort of narcissism, so it is a loaded topic, even if we are increasingly more aware of ourselves today than ever before… it’s more socially accepted photographing ourself thanks to the mobile phone cameras.
It’s not about narcissicm, of course. It’s about beginning to see ourselves. The inner in ourselves. For me, self portrait is actually about “soul portraits”, wich I have written about earlier and all our images are in some way sort of self portraits. It’s about what we choose to photograph and how we choose to photograph the things we see. “That particular tree” or “that particular person”. But I believe that it is in the actual self portrait that leads us to understanding more about ourselves. The subconscious and the unconscious…
I once read an interesting article in a Swedish newspaper about the perception on self portraits in art history; “To interpret oneself is admittedly an individual act that is not infrequently characterized by narcissism, but at the same time comprise the collective human community. That’s why self portrait always has wavered between the private and the public, between self-reflection and the collective gaze.”
I don’t look at it as narcissism. I look at it as that I show my truth. My truth about myself.
I also read this in the same article; “Why does artists choose to depict themselves? For instance, to Renoir it was important to give an official version of himself, because he considered that the portraits of him, made by his friends, was contrary to the truth, or rather against his truth.”
My self portraits, or soul portraits, is my truth. The way I see myself. And I will continue opening up for myself in my photography, whether I photograph myself or myself through others/other things. Don’t be afraid to photograph yourself, just start doing it… And I believe that this is where the openings are.