Last Friday I took a self-portrait. And then I took another on Saturday. And another on Sunday. I’ve taken one every day for the last 6 days and in that time I’ve made some really interesting discoveries about myself.
One of those discoveries is just how squeamish I am about taking and sharing these photos. It feels vain and self-indulgent. I feel awkward taking them to begin with, but I find that, the more photos I take, the more relaxed I become, and I stop judging myself. The judgment only returns when I share them. And then the script that runs through my head is what “other people” will think of me taking photos of myself. I begin judging myself again through projecting my own insecurities and judgments onto my friends.
I’m lovingly drawing my attention to this process of insecurity and judgment and letting it be. I don’t feel the need to change it – it’ll evolve on its own. For now, it’s enough to keep taking the photos and sharing them.
Another discovery has been that when I look in the mirror, I see one woman. And when I look through the lens of the camera, I see another. In fact, it’s probably an exaggeration to say that I “see” when I look in the mirror. My eye sees what it expects to see, and in so doing, doesn’t really see at all. So, when I look at the images I collect on my camera, it’s like truly seeing myself in a way I’ve never really experienced before.
It makes me wonder how often I do that – look without truly seeing. It makes me wonder how much I’ve been missing out on in the world around me due to a lack of attentiveness.
And in this seeing, I’ve discovered something else. I don’t have to be the person I’ve always been. That there isn’t the fixity of self that I’ve always just assumed. There’s no need to do the same things, be the same way, have the same response. I can choose in every moment how I want to be.
I can see that the self can be created and recreated in every moment – and that there is beauty to be found in that process.
As part of this creative approach, I’ve been using a photo editing site called Pixlr-O-Matic, and I find that when I’m in this creative cauldron, I’m in alchemical bliss. I allow myself the freedom to play with lenses, filters, effects and frames, and through this playtime I find that I forget I’m looking at a photo of myself. I gain an objectivity that is truly liberating.
I find that I can start to find parts of myself beautiful with the help of that distance. That this objectivity silences the inner critic – that voice of judgment.
I would love to hear about your own experiences with self-portraiture – have you given it a try? How did it feel? Did you share the results? If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?
Oh, and if you want to follow my project, just visit this posterous site I’ve set up to host the images: Selfies