Another Side of Me: The Art of Self-Portraits (Part 1)

I’ve been working, as of late, on an ongoing photography project. Normally, my models are my friends from home and school. But I’ve recently become extremely fascinated by the art of self-portraits. That means that I am stepping out from behind my camera and stepping, instead, in front of the very lens that I use to capture the images that you see here every week. I figured that as a person who writes so often about everyone else I photograph, it might be time to write about myself. Sure, my About Me section is a great start in the way of getting to know me (as a person), but self-portraits speak volumes about a photographer, both as a person and an artist. So humor me for a bit as I present to you the first installment of this “hard-hitting exposé” introducing, well, me:

The Abnormally Inartistic Truth

For starters, I really am not one who takes a lot of pictures…wait…that came out wrong. Obviously, I take a lot of pictures. I love taking pictures. My cameras go with me practically everywhere. In the four years I’ve been practicing photography (and cruelly following my friends around like paparazzi), I’ve taken thousands of photos. What I don’t like is taking pictures of myself. Even more, “good” pictures of me are hard to come by. I am extremely self-conscious in a way that most people are not. So to combat my, often times, poor self-esteem, my photos turn out like this:

I don’t even go to Middle Tennessee State (my surrogate mother basically threatened to kill me senior year if I decided to settle for MTSU). But I seriously love that hoodie.

I am secretly silly. I am a nerd coated in a caramel-skinned, serious exterior. I dance when no one is watching (obviously not the case here). I have a 24/7 “dorkiness factor” that I was made aware of not too long ago. I wear my sunglasses at night, and I rarely ever care that I can be seen in public with my hair sticking up because it hates being confined to the ponytail that I force it into everyday. Occasionally, though, I find that I can pull off that “good” picture that I so often crave:

I could have used this for a Monochrome Monday post. Every once in a while, I am able to achieve that photo that is truly worthy of being my Facebook profile picture. Save for the self-conscious flaws that I try my hardest to overlook, when I come across a photo like this, I accept my feelings of pleasure and work hard to, eventually, produce another one that one-ups it. But like I said, these “good” photos are few and far between, so most of the pictures taken of me just look like the following:

I kind of sort of love Batman. Mary Jane really likes the color yellow. And check out my razor-sharp tooth.

I save all of my personal photographic feats for my friends. I make faces. I smile too big showing off my famously straight teeth that have never seen braces (evoking jealousy from my friends). I squint my eyes to a size that I didn’t even know was humanly possible. I puff my cheeks and look like a monkey. I stick out my tongue in an attempt to be cool like Gene Simmons.

Frankly, there is nothing outstandingly memorable about me, and I am the furthest from the concept of “normal” despite how much I try to deny it. I’m imperfectly ok with that (and yes, I did mean to write “imperfectly”).

Painting a [Self] Portrait

So what about the art of the self-portrait? Every photographer has tried it at some point. It’s a beneficial tool to say the least. One can experiment with new props and poses and lighting and effects. And a self-portrait, as aforementioned, speaks volumes about a photographer. As I began this process, I thought of some of my very first personal portraits and what they say about me:

Running Out of Myself

I like learning. Not always in an academic setting. In fact, despite how important education is to me, I don’t like school anymore. Or rather, I don’t like traditional school settings anymore. This is rather ironic considering how I’m about to embark on my senior year of college at the very traditional age of 21. I would like to go to grad school at some point. I started traditional public school in kindergarten and graduated from traditional high school with honors way back in 2009. I earned the International Baccalaureate diploma later that summer. For a person who doesn’t like traditional school, I certainly hugged every last curve of that system. I said all of that because I’ve been learning (about academics and photography and myself) nonstop all my life, especially over the past four years. I have put a particular focus on learning how to use Photoshop, and the above self-portrait is an example of that learning (well, there’s a Things I’ve Learned post in the making).

I also like thinking. Honestly, I think way too much (much to the chagrin of my “mom”). My mind stays cluttered with bits and pieces of my current day and days past and days yet to come (but I’ll save the details of that for a future self-portrait post).

There are so many sides to me. And often times, they express themselves, like genes, at the same time. I am serious, realistic, down-to-Earth (most of the time). But I’m also a total kid at heart. This is actually a very common fact that most of you already knew. I mention my love of Crayola and classic Nickelodeon on a regular basis in my posts. But that is just who I am. I am a multifaceted being with too many broad interests and too few narrowed life/career goals on my Bucket List. I breathe in the world and breathe out myself, a hybrid of complexity. I run metaphorically but find myself sitting physically. I am non-traditionally traditional. I often make so little sense that everything I say and do is actually quite logical.

Electric Watercolor

I’m an artist…but not in the physical paint/canvas or paper/pencil sense. Not even in the camera/photograph sense. No, I paint pictures with my words. I’ve been told that I have the power to evoke feelings with my voice. Not through singing, but through speaking. I can command a group of people with what I say and how I say it to a degree that is so scary that it frequently leaves me sitting in silence afraid to speak and be heard. I hate public speaking. I mumble a lot because I don’t think anyone really cares about what I have to say. At other times, I speak too quickly and laugh too loudly. I take a vow of silence when I am mad about something. I write my thoughts better than I could ever speak them.

I show my emotions through my eyes, but sometimes people can’t see that because I always look down when I walk. I dart my eyes around the room when I’m trying not to cry. My eyebrows are one of my few physical features that get compliments on a regular basis (right up there with my teeth/smile and my chest). I wear my heart in little pieces on my sleeve, and I always give too much of myself away to the friends I make. My surrogate mother knows me better than anyone, probably even more than I know myself (this is the 3rd time I’ve referenced her in this one post, sheesh). But I possess dark secrets that even she doesn’t know, and I never like talking about myself (not even now as I’m writing all of this). Yes, I’m an artist. I use my personality to craft friendships and sometimes I unknowingly rip them apart. I see beauty in some of the ugliest things and ugly in the most aesthetically pleasing of things. I don’t understand quantum mechanics and writing a research paper is the easiest, most boring task to me.

I ask questions like “there’s an artist; would you rather be the canvas, the paintbrush, or the paint?”

I don’t have a good enough answer for any of the questions I ask.

But I am paint splattered to perfection, a dripping culmination of every little detail from being an orphan/a ward of the court to wanting desperately to swim with dolphins. I am everything I am and nothing that I’m not. This is another side of me. An honest side, a sometimes lying side, an artistically non-traditional, Pandora listening, blogger-styled side of me. The art of the self-portrait…this is only the first side of me. But another side nonetheless.

This is me.

…to be continued…

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