Thursday, May 26, 2011
I'm over at Mortal Muses today, kicking off a week of musing on self-portraits with this image of me in my little creative space in our apartment here in Italy. We've been talking about a self portrait prompt amongst the muses for quite some time, and I must admit I had been dreading it. I don't like pictures of myself. I see all of my flaws, the things I want to change. I've never quite figured out the self-portrait craze that seems to be going on in photography right now.
The dread was reduced when I finally got the idea to capture a picture of me in this place, our apartment in Italy, which we are leaving so soon. This little space you see me in is where my creative journey has unfolded. Where I dream, plan, and capture all of my ideas as they emerge. This is me, right now, right here. In the process of doing this prompt, I discovered something interesting - I actually like this photo of myself. I still see all of my physical flaws, but it's as if they diminish in importance because there is more context. This is a self-portrait of more than the outer shell, it shows what's going on inside too. There are a thousand details in this photo I could point out, each representing some aspect of me that goes beyond what you see on the outside. I like that.
So often, with portraits, it's all about keeping the focus on the physical person and trying to remove a distracting background. Sometimes though, the context found in that background is as important to the portrait as the person itself. Context can make a portrait something more. I learned this when I saw the work of photographer Jason Bell, at an exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery in London. The portraits were for his project, An Englishman in New York, and his work struck me for how he captured the setting as much as the person in the image. These portraits are about each person in their place, and they tell a larger story than just a great head shot alone.
I'm heading out today for another week of vacation, this time to Scotland. It's our last week-long vacation here in Europe before we move back to the US on July 1. You'll see a few scheduled posts from me over the next week but I'll be back, live and in person, on June 6. Have a great week!