The other day I was rummaging through some old photographs that I had lying around the studio and found this image of me circa 1997. It was cut out of an old contact sheet from back in the film days. Ah yes, Kodak T-Max, what a wonderful film. This was in fact, my first self-portrait. It wasn't a selfie but rather, a self-portrait. There is a difference — the difference being that I was using a professional camera set to self-timer mode, on a tripod, and I put some artistic thought into it (Ok, not a lot on this particular portrait). I have the serious, young artist look working here, but it was my portrait at that time in my life.
To be honest, I'm not a fan of having my photograph taken, I guess that is why I'm BEHIND the camera. Most photographs of me show the more serious side of my personality. I could say that in general I have what has been glamorized by celebrities as "resting bi*#h face. " I do smile in pictures — my social media accounts have a profile picture of me smiling. I've been told I have a nice smile.
As a visual storyteller, I am entrusted with telling people's stories, in the most authentic way possible. Upon meeting someone for only five or ten minutes before a shoot, I'm essentially asking them to be vulnerable with me and let down their guard down so that I can make their portrait, revealing who they really are. How can I ask them to do what I am not willing to do? So, I have been taking self-portraits every few years or so for that reason; empathy. I go through the same struggles that many of my subjects do, as I sit or stand in front of the camera, staring back at the deep, black lens that is glaring out at me. It's uncomfortable — for me. As human beings, we have a perception of ourselves in our minds on what we look like outwardly to others and when our image as recorded on a camera doesn't align with our perception of ourselves, the disconnect creates discomfort and we're less likely to enjoy the process of having our portrait created. So, yes, I have empathy. I tell people about my self-portrait work when I am out on an assignment making portraits of those who may feel displeasure with the process. It helps to build trust with my subjects, which is always important. This is one of the privileges of a storyteller.
End note: As I wrote this post, I have been in the process of redesigning my website and my brand specialist has been telling me that I need a portrait of myself for the new website. Reluctantly, I agree — soon, a portrait of me will be on my About page — a self-portrait!