The Art of Self-Portraits

As an artist, I'm often asked why I create self-portraits.  Friends ask me, "Do you do it because you think you're really handsome?"  Though that may be true, that is not why I create self-portraits. My approach to self-portraits are specific.  Other artists will approach them differently and for different reasons.  However, for an artist, there is a certain health in its regular completion no matter how they are accomplished.


1) It expands my vision.

My vision for regular shooting has expanded because of the regularity of planning and shooting self-portraits.  I pour into my shoots intention with every image.  I am constantly asking myself ‘why’.  What is the point?  What will this image accomplish?  Asking these questions enables me to move past a dull vision.  I am constantly wanting to create the grand.  This is not to say simplicity is not creative or grand.  But for me, my message, even if it is a simple scene, is grand.

2) It requires exactitude.

Because I strictly shoot film, simply the act of doing these requires my vision to be precise.  The exposure, the focus, the scene all must follow a precise order.  As a result, I am pushed.  I am asked (from myself) to overcome unseen obstacles that will produce a seen accomplishment.  The toughest part is modeling and focus.  I can’t see what I look like.  I have to imagine it all.  I have to practice how I’m going to stand.  Sometimes though it doesn't always pan out.


3) It allows experimentation.

I love this part. The things I’ve always wanted to do but have been too afraid to ask someone to help me with are no longer an excuse.  I can experiment all I want.  Whether that is lighting, composition, props, motion, I now can do it.  Not only is there no fear, but also no one over my shoulder telling me I shouldn’t line up this way or I need to do this or that.  It can be as absurd as I like.

4) It gives a sense of pride.

A healthy sense of pride is okay for any artist.  Taking pride in the work you have accomplished is okay.  And for me, the ability to say that I have done all of this – the planning, the shooting, the modeling – is satisfying.  However, for me to continue as an artist I need a good dose of failure.  My (grand) ideas don’t always pan out.  They sometimes fail, or just flat out suck.  Humility is good, because a big head is never good when doing self-portraits (because then it’s just narcissism).


5) It is a timeline.

Not very often do I have someone else take my picture.  Self-portraits allow the artist to present to the world how they envision themselves.  I tend to create self-portraits that are more striking and serious - shrouded in a bit of mystery.  This is how envision myself - or would like to be perceived as.  My introspection changes over time; in ten years I may think of myself quite differently, thus change how I do self-portraits.  All in all, these portraits are a marker for who we believe we are as artists.

For artists, it's extremely important to push ourselves in our varying mediums and techniques.  Self-portraits, in the end, are an avenue for expression and growth.  This is why I do self-portraits.