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.