Self-portraiture has become a part of who I am, how I express myself and delve into the deeper reaches inside me to tell the world who I am: a creative artist, a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend.
It wasn’t always this way, and I’ll share why, but first, I wanted to mention a group of artists and photographers whom I joined together to share our own self-portraits and to challenge ourselves to get in front of the frame — be it on your own or with someone. It is the ‘P52radness’ project. A project that has its own Facebook group and which currently has over 1000 members. You could also find some of the beautiful self-portraits shared through the hashtag #p52radness on Instagram.
‘#P52radness is a self-portrait group of artists who see the value in getting out from behind the lens. Being present for our loved ones, but also for ourselves. That deep growth that comes from pushing oneself out of your comfort zone and seeing your inner beauty shine.’
Adri de la Cruz, Founder of Dear Photographer
The group was started by the wonderful Adri — a lifestyle and documentary family photographer herself in Chicago — who understood the significant meaning of encouraging women to get in front of the frame for their children. To leave behind a visual legacy for them in the form of photographs that will mean something to them in future years, and also for ourselves now.
Doing a self-portrait brings up so many challenges. For those who have reached this far in reading this post, your mind may have started to come up with many pre-conceived ideas of what seeing someone’s self-portraits feels to you. Perhaps you might be thinking they are self-serving or some kind of a vanity project that the person likes to post beautiful images of themselves to share to their Facebook profile.
Some people might find self-portraits intriguing. Most of us have images of just ourselves or with family or friends in our family photos. We might have shared these with our closest family and friends. Most of them were probably taken on family outings or holidays; happy memories that we wish to remember. They are intriguing to the viewer because it’s interesting to see where you’ve been and how you looked or felt when you were there.
Photographs have an emotional content. Self-portraits or photos of you in the frame is no different. The legacy or physical evidence you make for yourself and for the people you love brings an emotional feeling to them. Being in your photographs is not just a self-gratifying exercise, it is a way to show that we were there.
THE CHALLENGES OF MAKING SELF-PORTRAITS
As a documentary family photographer, it is important to me that parents, particularly mothers, are in their photographs with their children.
I know how intimidating and challenging it can seem to get in those photographs. I know that because I have come up with those challenges myself. I can also tell you that it was only about 18 months ago (similar time to when I joined the ‘p52radness’ project) that I started my own journey to be better at getting in front of the frame, rather than behind the camera which is really where I am most comfortable.
Yes, let’s emphasize on the word ‘better’ rather than perfect.
In the age where there is an awareness of Photoshop and misguided belief that us photographers are magicians in being able to digitally enhance you and make pretty the features you don’t like, it seems like images that we see, on screen or in publications, create an illusion of an image that we can consider to be untrue. Do we really want that? Do we really want our children to remember some image that don’t really represent their mother or father in their memories?
As a family documentary photographer, I know where I sit on this and how I tell everyone, not just to my clients, that you are beautiful just as you are. Be yourself in your photographs.
I list some challenges I faced when I did, and still do, make my own self-portraits. I put them here so you know exactly that I have walked through this process and can ‘hold your hand’ if you will use the expression, when you have your pictures taken, whether it’s by me or someone else.
Challenges to making self-portraits:
- I am not beautiful
- I don’t have time
- The children are more interesting than me
- I feel ‘naked’ without having someone to take pictures with
- I am wearing my (frumpy) mum jogging bottoms, t-shirt and scruffy trainers — aka not presentable for photos
- I am/feel fat/need to lose weight
- I have wrinkles or bags under my eyes
- I’m not wearing make-up. (My make-up bag dates back to the pre-children era, so I dread to think what a make-up artist would think to the out-of-date foundations or blushes I have and rarely use).
- I’ve not washed
- The house is a mess. (I have two young boys and I cannot see that changing in the immediate future).
- No-one wants to be in the picture with me
- I don’t have anyone to take my picture
- I’m doing something very ordinary or mundane.
This list could go on and on, but you get the picture. These are just some things I come across on a near daily basis for myself, because as my own family photographer, I spend a lot of time documenting my own family as well as for other people.
However, before you think that’s an excuse for not having beautiful pictures of yourself and leave that legacy that I mentioned above, I’d like to say that it is possible for you to enjoy your photographs with yourself in the frame.
In Part Two, I will share with you creative ways to get in the frame with your children. Don’t miss out on those tips as the best bit is that you don’t even need to look in the camera!
So, coming back to the best bit of this article…Well, you wouldn’t think I could get away with not sharing some of my self-portraits, would you? Below are some of my favourite self-portraits that I have done as part of the p52radness project.
What do you think about having your pictures taken? Tell me how you get in the frame with your children in the comments below.