Self-portraits are a visual diary hidden in plain sight…
or so says me. (Here is my 2013 self-portrait gallery.)
The Oxford Dictionary chose “selfie” as the 2013 word of the year. A selfie is similar to a self-portrait, but a selfie is meant to be shared on social media. According to the Oxford Dictionary, selfies are usually taken with a smart phone or webcam and uploaded to a social media site. I take selfies, self-portraits and pictures of myself. Occasionally, I take a decent “self-picture,” but I rarely share the images. I almost never share my process. I am only doing so, because one of my photographer friends asked.
Most of my self-images can be placed into three categories — Reflections, Themed, and Awkward Self-Portraits (similar to Awkward Family Portraits). I am surprised when a photograph turns out decent, because I am an obstinate subject. Do you know the Pink song, “Don’t Let Me Get Me?” When I photograph myself, I feel as if I am singing that song to myself. As soon as I stop trying to take my picture, I can be friends with myself again. The photo above combines reflections and themes (and good composition.) I intentionally photographed half of my face and half of the model’s face. I noticed the construction area behind me. I wanted to say something to me about living up to standards of beauty and constantly trying to improve. In many of my self-portraits I intentionally photograph myself with a scruffy beard. Awkward is OK.
While selfies might be recent, self-portraits existed before photography. (Square formats existed before Instagram.) Self-portraits also exist outside of photography. In 1970, Bob Dylan released his album titled Self-Portrait. Music critics, even those who admired Dylan, disliked Self-Portrait. The criticisms of Dylan’s Self-Portrait are common about many self-portraits. The album was as not as good as his earlier work. Self-Portrait, despite the title, did not seem like something Dylan would create.Listeners didn’t get it.
Self-portraits promise insight, but deliver a secret code. If a good portrait reveals something about a person’s past, present and future, what does a good self-portrait reveal? More importantly, who is the audience? For my self-images, I am my own audience. Why is “The Skulls” photo funny? If I explained all the pop culture references, you might find it funny. If I told you that this photo somehow connects to the Mr. Hand photo I took while teaching/learning the PhotoBooth application, would you guess the reference? How many layers would you know? Does it matter? This photo was not taken for you.
I am slowly learning “selfies.” I have taken a few decent cell phone and webcam pictures, but I am struggling with the square format. (I struggle with all the square formatting, not just selfies)
This selfie was one of the most popular pictures I posted on FaceBook this year. It is very funny, but it does not work for Instagram. How did Storm Thorgerson and all the other album cover designers create amazing square designs?
I take a bunch of “Awkward Self-Portraits.” Compared to my other awkward self-portraits, I seem relaxed. (My son was with me, which helps.) When I first started taking self-portraits, I could not help myself. I was awkward. Now, I refine my awkwardness. I do not need to be cool. Being awkward allows me to create space for my students and other people who need room to grow. Besides, I am a high school photography teacher with epilepsy. Awkward is better.
I am less awkward around certain people. When I was at epilepsy events this year, I felt more comfortable to push boundaries and create space for other people. This “awkward” photo also fits the friendship theme. “When the road looks rough ahead…” we stick together. People with epilepsy must stick together. We must create space for each other. When I was younger, I worked at looking cool. That was fake too, but it looked “normal.” Sometimes, sticking together looks awkward, but it is necessary.
I am less awkward around my children and their friends. Last month, my son and I visited one of his best friends who had moved to Fresno. We took pictures together with another Toy Story character. My son does not really care if I am awkward or cool. My son needs me to love him. I NEED ME TO LOVE HIM, and I do.
Loving children almost always looks awkward… awkwardly beautiful some days and awkwardly messy on other days. There are more photos in this slideshow, including family self-photos with my family. (Sometimes I use a tri-pod and timer.) Perhaps I will add more photos to the slideshow later. I had also intended to discuss how Instagram has influenced the squaring of photography. Beware of the square?
Some people believe that everything we create is a self-portrait. Perhaps. Certainly, if you want to learn more about me, view or read something I create that is not about me.