A few weeks ago, I shared that I was going to do something completely out of my comfort zone – attempt to take a self-portrait. When the professor announced this assignment, I felt a wave of nerves and stress flood over me. In the digital age of the selfie, I can’t say that I’m the type to take a selfie or post selfies on-line. But the professor began the class with this question:
What’s the difference between a selfie vs. self-portrait?
I thought, “What an interesting question?” A selfie is such a loaded word in our society today, thanks to the Oxford English Dictionary adding selfie as an official word to its online database in 2013. However, selfies have long been around before Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Miley Cyrus posted selfies on the Internet. Selfies tend to have an arms-length portraiture view of one’s self, taken from a digital camera. Typically, they are posted on social media sites, such as Facebook and even on older sites, such as MySpace. (Remember MySpace?)
Self-portraits, on the other hand, aren’t always necessarily taken at arms-length and can have a significant effect as an art medium. Cindy Sherman is a well-known theoretical photographer who transforms herself into various women, which makes you think about how women are viewed in society. Every single photo is a self-portrait, but she embodies a female figure of a stereotyped woman. The wigs, prosthetics, make-up, and clothes she models transform her. She’s not portraying a version of herself in any of her photos. The professor shared several other types of self-portrait photographers who used interpretive, explanatory, and other types of photography in their self-portaiture work. With each portfolio of photographers, the range of styles gave us plenty of inspiration to work from. After returning from class, I wanted to take some photos in the dark, but the temperature was in the 30s. There was no way I was going to stand still for minutes outside in the dark (Plan A). Then my mind was filled with Plans B, C, and D.
Plan B was an attempt at interpretative work. I brought out the cardboard kid’s play kitchen, some toys, the kids’ table and chairs, and an old vacuum. Staging the kitchen and kids’ table and chairs turned out to be a bit more difficult than I imagined. The ground wasn’t level. The wind kept knocking the kitchen down, and Linus wanted to play kitchen while I was staging.
When students critiqued my work, they thought of it as an interpretive piece that wanted to address the deeper environmental issues in our society today. After I explained that it’s been a long winter in Michigan, my desire for cleanliness and order inside the home, the image took on a whole other meaning.
Plan C was an attempt to look at direct lighting, while challenging my inner Cindy Sherman. I used an ankle bandage around my wrist, and I wore a dark hoodie and added black eyeliner on the bottom of my eyes. With the light directed towards my hands, shadows gave my face a brooding look.
I ended up dodging a few seconds off my face, so that you could see it in a more ominous way. Here’s a scanned image of what it would have looked like without the dodging. Unfortunately, scanning an image doesn’t always produce the best image quality. (See photo below.)
Plan D is probably more in line with my personality, or rather a version of me that I’d rather portray. Lots of staging required of some well-placed items, such as a simple porcelain teapot, one of my favorite little teacups and saucer, and some draped linens over a tri-panel. The photo was not successfully taken in morning light outside, but I’m glad I tried this.
And for those of you interested in selfies, here is a selfie before I began my photo shoot for this assignment. I don’t think I’d like to produce this kind of work in the future, but you never know.
– Learning the Physics of Light
– How to Fine Tune a Black & White Photo Image
– Putting Composition Theory into Practice
– Learning About Composition
– Taking Intro to Analog (Film) Photography
– American History of Photography, the Darkroom, and the Unintended Photogram
From my hometown to yours,