Much like all creative endeavors, I stumbled into photography. My friend, Brenna, and I used to have these marathon creative/bullshit sessions. We’d drink wine, gossip, and make things. Sometimes we knew what we were doing. Most often, we had no clue.
From the leftover scraps of fabric, beads, and other odds and ends, we’d assemble crazy costumes and dress up. Yes, we were in our late twenties- way past the appropriate dress up age. But with Brenna, I was free to relive my childhood fantasies. There was no judgment- so long as the idea was fun, we’d do it. At some point, Brenna pulled out a camera and we started taking pictures.
We began to create sets and devise back stories for our photo shoots. Our costumes became more elaborate, and our interest in photography grew. We even landed the cover of a band’s CD. Ok, my brother was in the band, but we still saw it as a validation of our creativity. (note: coffin in the photo was created by putting a thirft store wedding dress in a bathtub and having Brenna lay in it.)
Brenna and I had a falling out, and our photo sessions came to a halt. We reconciled a couple of years later, but by then, we were living in different states. I missed our photo sessions. I bought a digital camera- the tool that a hack like myself uses to feel like a pro- and began to take my own pictures.
I took the standard macro nature photos. Like any decent metal head, I pushed my way to the front of the stage and snapped bands in action. I arranged elaborate sessions with friends serving as models. I even forced my husband to be fierce on a few occasions.
But my most readily available model has always been me. I don’t have to wait for me to arrive. I have few complaints about the makeup and wardrobe And I don’t get mad if I need to switch an angle to disguise a double chin. Heck, I’m great to work with. If you need a short, chubby, middle aged, tattooed model, hire me! I’m good!
I started doing self portraits about ten years ago. Back then, I was kid-free and could spend an entire evening getting ready for a shoot. Now, on the one day a month I happen to do my hair and makeup, I usually squeeze in a snapshot or two. I know it’s narcissistic, beyond narcissistic, and it’s silly to want a photo of yourself looking pretty- but dammit, sometimes I want to feel pretty! I need reminders that I have clothes in my wardrobe that are accessorized with heels and jewelry, not mud and fingerpaint.
More than that, for the two minutes it takes to shoot a couple of snapshots, I feel a creative surge. I need those little art fixes. It doesn’t have to be a self portrait. Sometimes I feel it when I create a pleasing swirl of colors while kneading Play-doh with my kids. Other times, I jot down a cool line on a scrap of paper for use at a later time. On any given day, I find at least several moments to revel in the joy of creating something, even on the tiniest of scales.
I have no idea what I am doing. I am an amateur in every sense of the word. I remember a friend once asked me about using a light meter and I responded “say whaaat?” I simply put the camera on the ten second auto timer and run into frame. Granted, over the years, I have picked up a few tips. I know about the magic of early morning and early evening light. Someone gave me a tri-pod to decrease blurriness. I’ve gotten better at Photoshop, although now, I rarely use it. In the early days, I never saw a filter I didn’t like. Now, I’ve actually come around to the less is more way of thinking. Like everything I do, I throw myself into it, listen to the advice of people who know what they are doing, and fake the rest.
Yesterday, I snapped yet another self portrait, and got to wondering what they would look like all laid out together. Here is the result. The ultimate exercise in ego, but also kind of fun to see where you started, where you are at, and dream about what the future might bring. And it’s nice to feel pretty.