Steph Yiu

Day #8 – Self Portraiture

Day #8: Self Portraiture

Tonight’s creativity project Day #8 is all about self-portraiture. My senior thesis was focused on avatar self-portraiture, so it’s surprising to me that I have never thoroughly explored the self-portraits in my own photo library.

In this project, I went through and pulled all the images in my library where I have “turned the camera on myself.” (I edited some out because of repetition).

In compiling this massive set of photographs, I got to essentially re-live moments of my entire life from middle school until now in the span of two hours (although I lost about 3,000 images during a hard drive crash, so a section of my life is missing). Sitting down and editing your entire library into just self-portraits gives you an interesting perspective on your life.

In building this set of photographs, I’ve discovered a few things:

A few elements must be in place before you are willing to turn the camera on yourself (with or without a friend) for a self-portrait.

—Boredom. There are a lot of these images while traveling, waiting, etc.
—Intimacy. You must be close with the people you are taking these pictures with. There are very few self-portrait photos with strangers. Some of my best friends, like Kathy and Katherine, appear in almost half of the images. Also, boyfriends make repeated appearances.
—The need to capture the moment, not the scenery. These self-portrait images are taken to capture the relationship and the moment, and do not focus on aesthetic value or scenery.
—Ugliness. Self-portrait photographs are ugly. You will never find an angle that pleases you, and your face is almost always contorted in some very, very odd way.

Other things that change the nature of a self portrait:

—Being comfortable with a camera. It took me until mid-high school before I started taking self-portraits consistently, because of how prevalent digital cameras became in later years.
—Style of camera. Using my heavy digital SLR really prevented self-portraits, while iPhones made for crappy self-portraits (you can’t find the button to take the photograph). The best camera for self-portraits are the small, hand-held digital cameras — There’s an element of surprise when you turn the display around and see the photograph you have just taken. The computer-mounted webcams are a poor choice because you see yourself and correct any “problems” before you snap a photo. Those photos always look posed.

I’m very happy with creativity project #8. It was a good exploration. I hope to take this theme and evolve it into a bigger project.

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