I quit my day job which is simultaneously invigorating and terrifying at the same time. For the past two and a half years, I’ve been a nanny for a very wonderful family. I always knew it was never meant to be a lifelong career, but I enjoyed my time there nonetheless. This is the second time in the 12 years I’ve spent maintaining several jobs that I’ve ever quit a job without having another one lined up. The first time I was in college and transferred to another school, but I had about six months of savings from working while waiting to transfer and living with my dad. Once I moved, I found another restaurant job a quick as I possibly could and made barely enough to pay rent, buy gas, and oh yeah, eat. Then after that, the whole “don’t quit your job you hate until you get another job you may like but will also likely hate” pattern lived on and on, amen.
Here’s the thing, I know that my job does not need to define me in total as a person, but for so long I have had jobs that I could do just to survive, and I never really did anything I enjoyed or that pursued my passions and was something that I really WANT to do. So for the first time in my life, I’ve taken a chance and decided to follow my artistic passions (my photography, videography, painting, writing, etcetera…) with the attempt to make them my full time career and not as just this thing that I do on the side where I sometimes make some money.
For a while now I’ve wanted to have a blog, and when I say a while, I mean years. I have been a writer in my own time for basically my entire life but haven’t really had a way of showing it except for scholastic papers. A blog seemed like the right way to combat that, but I didn’t want it be like my Xanga from middle school – essentially a public diary. The issue being it seemed almost impossible for me to figure out something to write about continuously over the course of months or even years if possible. Then the idea of trying to add pictures in the mix was similarly just as difficult to figure out a consistent topic where both could thrive.
Over the past three or four months, knowing that my job was likely soon to end, I spent a lot of time researching. I’ve followed YouTubers, instagramers, and other artists and photographers. I’ve read far too many articles and watched so many videos all about other successful creatives and how they’ve done it. I even spent time talking to my own more successful art and photographer friends, trying to figure out what I should do once my nanny career was over with. And then, as swift as the wind and as calm as a whisper, it came to me... There was one night in December, I can’t tell you what I was doing but the memory of the thought is so clear to me. It was with such confidence and ease and in what I could describe as another part of myself speaking, while still being mystical and mysterious, that said: “Do a series of self portraits and write about it.”
Self portraits in my life are in no way new, and the idea as a whole is by far no novel concept. In high school, where I fell in love with photography, I dabbled with self portraits, but was too concerned about being viewed as narcissistic or egotistic because I liked taking pictures of myself. Then again in college the idea of the self portrait tantalized me. I came across the works of Cindy Sherman and Nikki S. Lee. Both are women photographers who take self portraits where they depict characters so the self portrait becomes not necessarily about the self. Immediately I was very drawn to this idea. Because the image becomes so much less about the self and more about the character in the image, I felt freed to experiment and less worried about the criticisms I could potentially receive.
Throughout my college career I played with this idea many, many times. My last experimentation is a black and white film series I did called “This is not me.” The black and white image here is a sample from that, and you can view the whole project in my photography section. Then after that, I basically forgot about self portraits. The idea simply slipped away. A staple for my creative past, gone, because I for some reason told myself I needed to “grow up” about it.
Feeling like my own body and spirit were desperately reaching out, I decided that I would take at least one self portrait series per week for 2019 and then write about it. After one year, I’ll see where I am, and I’ll re-evaluate from there. The goal was originally to write weekly, but clearly so far that's not what has happened. However, I will try to do biweekly to triweekly posts. But here I am, sticking to it, writing my first post. I’m glad that I’ve pushed myself this far, because in the few past weeks, there has of course been the less confident voice that says, “Are you sure you want to do this?” “Maybe we can just not.” But here we are; so I’m doing it.
The above picture of me on the bed was taken in the last week of December. Even though it was technically taken in the previous year, it is definitely the first of the series. The self portrait idea had already been implanted so I decided to practice. I got lucky. I took three shots of myself on the bed and liked them all enough to stop. I’m not anticipating that each session will go as smoothly and quickly as this did, but like I said, I got lucky.
The next series, which was the first for the year, I decided to take pictures with Remmy the dog. He’s not mine. To add to the life changes, in November my boyfriend and I moved into his sister and her husband’s house while they are living internationally. So for now, were dog-sitting him until it's also time for him to move. However, I spend so much time with this dog, especially since I am without my day job. I also photograph him all the time. That day, I was in the bedroom, the lighting was great, and he was laying on the bed with his head facing the direction I ended up putting the camera. I decided it was too perfect not to take pictures with him. Being in the exact setting for the first series I took, it seemed too similar and I felt I was being too safe and not challenging myself.
To push myself to think outside of the box, and outside of my room, I decided to venture to a different part of the house to take the series with the pink sweater. I have to say, I am pretty proud of myself for actually taking on two series in one week. I even did some shots in a different outfit with the same location, but I decided I didn’t like any of them enough to post them. I decided the original thought was best.
As daunting as it seems, eventually I’m going to need to do this in public places. The more I can get comfortable with practicing changing my scenery with each shoot, the more I will get used to the idea that eventually I’m going to need to leave my house and do this in front of other humans while hopefully not looking like too much of an idiot. Also at this point, I’m still trying to figure out how to pose my body. It’s been awhile since I’ve needed to be conscious about different poses and not just smiling for a quick snapshot with friends.
I would also like to add, I only edit my photos to deal with color corrections. I don’t do any sort of air brush or changing body parts because I think that only adds to the idea that we are never good enough, and we need to force ourselves to meet ridiculous beauty standards. Occasionally I’ll get rid of a small blemish, but usually I don’t even do that. I have a small bump on my nose and when I’ve modeled in the past, I’ve definitely have had other photographers take it out. I am fine with my nose, but for a long time I was always very self-conscious about it and when photographers would edit my face, it would reinforce this idea that I would be “better” without out it, and I felt that the person in the photo is not really me.
Despite being body self-conscious, I want to continue to push myself. The next week I took full body photos where I was wearing tight leggings and a sweater exposing my stomach. To produce the best the image, I tried to pose differently and be aware about the way the clothing would cling to certain parts of my body. It was also very windy and cold this day, and so I’m reminded that dealing with natural elements is an additional challenge. I’m having to re-learn so many things. Another of them being: how to use my scenery to the fullest while also trying to pay more attention to the artistic integrity of the image and to focus less on how “in X image you can see my stomach rolling over the top of my leggings.”
My goal is to have my pictures feel like they’re telling a story whether fact or fiction. I like to leave a part of the story up to interpretation by the viewer, but it can be a pleasant surprise when people see what I see or even when someone feels moved by something that I may not be thrilled about. I’m treating each series as a healthy challenge for my creative growth. I also want the be a better writer. For me this is not only about confronting my desire to produce visually stunning images but also to challenge and grow as a writer. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with my progression. I have aspects of what I like and dislike in each picture, and I’m also learning a formula for my self portraits and trying to develop a certain style within them besides my already existing photographic style. I’m excited for the weeks to come and the different ideas that I will get to play with. So far so good.