Here’s the story of how I got into self-portrait photography.
Very early on, I realized that I love photographing life’s events. With disposable film cameras being the only thing that was available, I’d take pictures of our group of girlfriends hanging out. At my urging, we’d strike poses and take pictures.
At the emergence of digital cameras, things became easier. I got married, bought my first digital point-and-shoot and launch into what my husband refers to the “crazy picture taking phase”. We fought on our honeymoon because I insisted on stopping every couple feet to take a picture and he just wanted to relax and enjoy the area. Little did he know it was only the beginning and that he will have to not only get used to the “phase” but to become an active participant.
In the beginning all I was interested in was photographing the surroundings and ourselves in the surroundings so that I could send photos to my family who were 3000 miles away.
Then I started taking pictures of us as a couple just for the heck of it, for memories.
Eventually it got to the point where I felt the need to take pictures but there was nothing to take pictures of but myself. So I’d spend my afternoons searching for interesting light and angles and poses when it came to self portraiture. I can say 9 out of 10 photos were horrible looking.
Eventually I took it to the next level by buying a remote and tripod and that literally changed everything. Now I was able to achieve whatever angle and pose I needed to do without relying on propping the camera onto something. But the photography itself didn’t change. I still used the same Canon semi-professional (not a DSLR) on Aperture priority. I still had nothing or no one to photograph besides myself ( hubby wasn’t into it, girlfriends aren’t always around when a desire to photograph strikes). So I did a bunch of this:
It all changed when I bought my first DSLR, Canon Digital Rebel XTI. That was a game changer: the quality was superior to my old point-and-shoot, it gave me more control over the photos and I bought it right before a Black and White party I was hosting. When i took that first group shot with a remote and a tripod with everyone in the picture and no one forced to be out of the shot, because someone has to take it, that’s when i started realizing what self-portraiture meant for me. It meant never missing a person, it meant having photos to look at 10 years from now and seeing myself in them, not rocks and trees. Who will really care about inanimate objects, no matter how beautiful they are, 10 years from now? But we all do want to see what we looked like, where we were and what we were doing.
So I continued documenting everything, making sure that I was in the photos too, at least half of the time, whether that was by using my hubby or actually photographing via remote/tripod. We would take a ton of pictures on our trips and I loved looking back and seeing both of us there rather than one of us. That was very rewarding and totally worth having to drag my tripod with me everywhere
It was only about less than a year later that I realized that I am tired of taking mindless useless pictures of myself and that I needed to get more creative. I needed to photograph to send a message, or evoke a feeling, make it about where I am as much as it is about me. That’s when I joined Flickr and its self-portraiture groups that give out themes every day for people to follow. I loved it! It was where I was forced to get more creative. It was still about me, but in the context of a theme. That felt right. I didn’t feel I was taking pictures of myself, but more like painting a picture of what I had in my head. I felt I was the photographer and a model and I was creating something beautiful or at least interesting. It became about creating an image through makeup and wardrobe. It was still pretty simple but it was a start.
When my mom came to visit me from Russia, I was estatic about being able to take millions of photos together without constantly bugging hubby to take a picture. That was really important for me, because she lives so far away and the memories is what I live by in between our visits. And eventually, I know, she won’t be with me and those photos will be even more precious.
Soon, I graduated to more conceptual shots like these and that’s where I found my niche. I loved working on an idea in my head and getting it executed all by myself without anyone’s help: model, photographer, editor, set designer, make up artist, stylist – I did it all myself without relying on anyone else’s schedule or desires.
You can see more conceptual images here
A year or two after I got into self-portraiture, I moved to New York to pursue modeling full-time and that turned me off on photography completely. When you spend your whole day being photographed, the last thing you want is to come home ( read: model’s apartment) and take more pictures.
So I pulled away from photography for about 2 years, until I started this blog and found a whole community of photographers. I knew I wouldn’t go back to plain old photography and that my passion for self-portraiture was back.
When I saw how few photographers actually had pictures of themselves, I realized that it needs to be changed and started Selfie Saturdays, a weekly photo challenge, helping, empowering and motivating women to step from behind the camera. We have had amazing women step in front of the lens and totally rock it! It’s been so rewarding to see the progress.