Sunday, February 14, 2016

Becoming Myself

In late 2014, I began a yearlong self portrait project in which I paid tribute to some favorite artists by reinventing, one might say, appropriating, their subjects. It was a challenging journey that lasted twelve months and quite simply changed the way I think of myself as a photographer and a woman. Readers of my postings during that period will know it was not an easy time for me in any area of my life. Early reports of this new year notwithstanding, 2016 is now looking a lot better, in more ways than one. By the way, if you have any issues with seeing more of me than you counted on, consider yourself duly warned and scroll no further. 

I admit, my recent daringly honest self-portraiture has not been a purely aesthetic experiment. Loneliness, uncertainty, and the too often self-eclipsing effects of too much social media immersion played a large part in my making use of myself as a subject and an object and sharing the results with an audience I wasn’t even sure existed, much less had any interest in my activities or appearance. Going nude on the internet had very little to do with courage or vanity and very much to do with the two pronged defense of 1) having run out of fucks to give and 2) being pretty certain no one was paying attention anyway. 

Long story short, one year and change (and I mean that in more ways than one) later, the project is complete, my facebook account is deleted, I have even less to prove, an even smaller less certain audience, and now find myself missing my monthly shoots. Lacking (and no longer desiring) a specific artistic source to emulate, I went for one of the oldest prompts in the book: a prop shoot. Oh look, there’s my blanket and some nice sunlight conveniently filtering through a curtain onto my bed. Right. Just go and shoot and see what happens. No attempt to control or invest in outcomes, as if that ever works anyway. And pretty soon the blanket fell away and I was left with -- just myself.

Comfortably back in the familiar territory of irony and living metaphors, as my pretext became irrelevant and my confidence pre-eminent, I realized in my effort to sidestep the self portrait project, I had managed spontaneously and accidentally to come upon its perfect conclusive subject and challenge. By not trying to become or hide behind anything else, I was left with that most constant and yet elusive of themes, myself, the thing to which all this long arduous process of elimination I have been enduring has finally reduced and refined me. There was of course a little of me in all the subjects I portrayed, in fact, in some cases, more of me than I have ever displayed. But this time it’s all me. And I can tell you, I’m liking what I see. 

Happy Valentine's Day!