#BeyondTheSelfie: The Art of Self Portraiture | Jennifer Hulley Photographer Hamilton Ontario

 

I am terrified to start/share/continue this project. Like paralyzingly terrified.

Something keeps holding me back, stopping me from creating and sharing images of myself. Maybe it's because historically we aren't raised that way as girls. We aren't raised to draw attention to ourselves and shout "hey everyone, come look at me!" We are raised to be polite, to be modest, to be kind, to think of others and to downplay our successes while praising and bringing up the positive qualities in others . And the concept of focusing purely on creating and celebrating images of ourselves seems to counter act all of that. It seems....selfish instead of the selfless self we  are supposed to be. 

I blame Shonda Rhimes for this project. In fact I blame her a lot of decisions made during this past week (currently writing this draft on October 20th). You see, I am currently listening to her audio book, "The Year of Yes." Which in a nutshell is about saying yes to the things that scare you. That challenge you. That push you forward (but more on that later. For THAT deserves a post all in it's own. WWSD is a heavy concept). 

I have started, stopped, restarted and abandoned this self portrait project all together countless times in the past 2 years. I stop it for many reasons. Mainly because I become so completely frustrated when I can not execute the idea of have in my mind of what my image will look like.. You see, self portraits are hard. Like really really damn hard. I am so used to styling images to absolute perfection, moving items a nudge here, adding or removing prop, texture or colour there until  everything lines up and I can see the visual harmony unfolding in front of me. That is when I click, when I grab that moment because I know exactly how it looks and it looks the way I can see in my mind's eye.

That ability is completely stripped from you with self portraiture. You literally can not see your subject as you work. And so there I sit, posing, moving, shifting myself and trying to fire the trigger remotely while hiding the tiny remote I have in my hands. Add on top of this the extra difficulty of trying to grab focus on myself when I am not in frame to set the focus. (Cue dramatic music as artist meltdown ensues). 

I joined a facebook group months ago called "Project Me" where a group of photographers all work on self portraits following a weekly theme. I have not submitted one single image. Until this week when I could hear my inner Shonda telling me to do it. As the universe would have it the theme this week was "simply me." It was simple enough and nonthreatening enough that I was able to step in without becoming a totally distraught mess.

My final submitted image was this:

 
 

I chose this image and processing because to me it says simplicity. Black and white, a monochrome look takes away visual distraction caused  by colour. The composition is clear and simple, symmetrical and centered. 

I had a many outtakes and nearly there moments but I didn't like the end result of any of them. Many I felt my expression was off, or looked pained or stressed (probably because I was growing increasingly frustrated until I snapped and went for a silly face which coincidentally did not grab focus). And the fact still remains that I do NOT like looking into the camera. 

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