Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Self Help Selfie

As a lover of self portrait photography, the phenomenon of the "selfie" is fascinating to me. For anyone who doesn't know what a selfie is, it is a self portrait taken with usually a cellphone which are appearing all over Instagram and Facebook. There is an argument that as a society we are very self focused and promoting yourself on social media in this way is only adding to it. My question is perhaps this self focus can actually be used powerful way.

I've recently been re-reading Susannah Conway's book This I Know and she speaks quite a bit about how experiment self portraiture can be incredibly healing. With all the self portraits you take, she advises, there will be some you will look at and say, "Well, that's not half bad." As a woman, I know how incredibly empowering it can be to look yourself in the mirror and be comfortable with what is staring you back in the face, when society is constantly pointing out what I need to "fix".

Admittedly, there was a long period of my life when I was not at peace with what I saw.  As a teenager and in my early twenties I was extremely self-conscious. I aways looked in the mirror with a list of if onlys. If only my nose wasn't so wide. If only my eyes didn't squint up when I smile. If only my face were more narrow. If only I was thinner. Now that I am much closer to 30 than I am 19 there are times when I wish I could go back and shake that poor little girl to tell her nothing at all was wrong with her.

Two weeks ago I was experimenting with lighting and self portraiture when I took one of those, "Hey, this is pretty good" shots. In this face I don't see flaws; I see a person. The lines at my throat from almost 28 years of bending and a deep parenthesis carved into the corners of my mouth are badges of who I am, not something to be worried about. I'm happy I've gotten the opportunity to age. Not everyone has been given the luxury. I'm curious about the other badges I'll carry in the next 30 years. I can assure you, I will have earned and enjoyed every minute of getting them.



   

10 comments:

  1. Powerful words and a very beautiful photograph!

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  2. Apart from a person, I also see a very pretty girl with flawless skin!

    I agree with Magpie: powerful post, straight from the heart. A Real, True Selfie!

    And let's stop treating ourselves as if we should have been Perfect Works of Art.

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  3. Thank you all! I've been trying not to post lately unless I really have something to say. I need to start digging more often to find something.

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  4. Amen to that!
    Ageing is an experience too many people in the world don't get to do... the paradox of the West - we expect it as a right, then have surgery to reverse its effects - go figure!!
    A great post and a lovely photo :)

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  5. Agreed, Claire and thank you :) Personally I think there is nothing more gorgeous than a woman in her 40s aging gracefully and not caring what anyone else thinks. Looking forward to getting to that point!

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  6. I Googled the "quoted" term of self-help today and was was surprised that your article was just about all that showed up. Last year as the term "selfie" was becoming more widespread, I immediately thought to add "self-help," as I used to work several years ago at Borders. I've been on Facebook for a few years and first posted my selfies when I got my first smartphone, an old Moto Droid. I ran with the idea of filling my Profile Picture page with them, and they always had the quality for me of defining for myself (and for others) who I was. I imagined people assuming that I was egomaniacal, but I think people who knew me would assume it was done for the humor and the creativity of all the different shots. (Before that, I used Facebook as a forum for my self-expressed writing, nothing too serious, other than working out some thoughts as kind of a general therapy.) Over the last fifteen months since a pretty devastating failed relationship, though, the selfies really took on a more direct therapy for me than before. It might be too much, but you can check them out right on my Facebook page(Scott Antworth) , under Profile Pics, and I have well over a hundred selfies used for the exact purpose as you mentioned above. If you look at the comments underneath, you'll see some extrapolating as to the reasons behind them in general. Thanks for the article!

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    Replies
    1. One thing that I think is amazing - and I realized this through the stereotypical Facebook photos of my pit bull, Sanford, and my cat before that, Mitten - is that you can take a million photos and, even with almost the same exact deadpan expression that I use, they are all slightly different representations of you that you can appreciate separately. And when someone else takes the photo of you, it becomes even more different, almost to the point where you are a completely different person through their eyes.

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    2. Although obviously you are selecting which ones you like best for different reasons, and they don't necessarily have to be the most beautiful ones.

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    3. Your ability to pick and choose is pretty empowering.

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    4. Thank you for your comments! I want to experiment with more photography in this nature. It can be very therapeutic to have control over what images you choose and a great way to explore different emotions.

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