I've often thought of myself as attractive. Not pretty in any conventional way, my features are too strong, nor beautiful, I have my share of imperfections, but attractive. As in dynamic, appealing, sometimes sexy. Over the past few years, however, this has shifted. I am now more likely to think of myself as used up. A dried out husk of my former self. Yes, this sounds harsh, but much of the time it reflects how I feel. And, in trying to capture my first self portrait for submission to Self Portrait Challenge, this feeling has been reinforced.
I haven't been the subject of many photographs lately, tending to avoid the camera. The self-portraits I took recently show someone with a strong furrow on her brow (from all the frowning that I do!), tired eyes, dull-looking skin (from lack of exercise and attention to my health), and nary a smile to be found. Who sees the irony in the broach pinned to my lovely red coat? There's not a lot of joy to be found around these parts. Maybe participating in SPC will be not only a journey of self-discovery, but a vehicle for change.
Let me clarify something so this post doesn't come across all sob story. I have moments when I'm happy, times when I'm inspired and engaged, but rarely am I filled with joy. To be here, now. This is my truth. I hope it will not always be so, but when I see these photographs of myself, I fear for my health. Psychic, not physical.
What I find interesting about self-perception and photography, as it relates to this, is the dichotomy between how we see ourselves in our mind's eye and how we look through a more objective view finder. The camera can capture either one of these images, depending on circumstances and luck. I tend to look at myself subjectively in ways that flatter, from the tilt of my head as I perform my morning and bedtime rituals in front of the bathroom mirror, to the adjustments I make when I catch sight of myself unexpectedly in a store-front window. Many times, though, the camera does not cooperate and captures a more "objective" view.
The self-portrait that I've posted is a mixed bag. I don't look as good as I'd like to look, but I think it is an accurate representation. From the photographs at my disposal, I chose the one that most captures how I see myself in my mind's eye, without sacrificing all of the honesty of what I see when I catch myself unaware. There is a bit of vanity involved in my selection, but didn't someone say that honesty is overrated? Allow me to mitigate my discomfort.
Oh, and I've self-imposed one rule. These photographs must be taken by me. For the time being. As they say, rules are meant to be broken, so don't hold me to it. For now, I like the idea of having this constraint. In the future, I may decide that other-portraits are more reflective of me than the ones I take myself. We'll see.
Before you go, check out my inspiration for self-portraiture. He is enthusiastic, creative, experimental and uninhibited. And he takes a damned interesting picture.