02 April 2012

A Study of the Self-Portrait


The whole idea of a self-portrait is strange. I’m so strongly linked to how I see through the camera that to get to the other side of it would be difficult. It would be as if I were taking a photograph in the dark. 
- Annie Leibovitz


Maybe I've worked the Self-Portrait
more than I had initially thought
Methinks it is time to vary up what I shoot for a bit. I believe I will have 3 unique concentrations throughout this year that I will use to challenge myself and explore my creativity in unfamiliar settings using the camera. For starters, I've always been uncomfortable with self-portraits. Ever since I became serious with photography, I've rarely ever aimed my lenses at myself, which is sort of odd. I'm not the kind to shy away from the camera. I was a pro model for 3 years during my undergraduate years. I was an art model getting nude for art students for about 12 years. So its not like I'm not used to being the center of attention. If anything, I think its the lack of control that comes with my inexperience in shooting myself. Its not so easy to point the camera inwards. For me, I miss the ability to "see" myself which makes me unable to work the elements that I normally do in order to create a composition that I believe works. This can make me become very impatient with myself and not revisit the project again. This image where I'm looking like a madman, came from a vision in my head reflecting feelings at the time, but it took me an abnormal amount of time to compose and get that "just right" feel to it. 


© 2010 Terrell Neasley
When I get ready to take a shot of a model, I see everything. I don't just look at the model. I see all the surrounding elements and consider how the model integrates with the background, props, and environment. I compose based on what I see and may spot focus on a specific area within that composition. Well, I can't see myself when shooting myself and although I see many photogs excel at this skill, the talent currently eludes me. So instead of ignoring this genre any longer, I'll take it on and see how close I can get to mastering it. I would imagine it will stimulate creativity after you shoot yourself a few times, otherwise you'll quickly get bored. I don't necessarily have to be nude to do this. I've tried that before, as you can see below, and hated it. The results where unsatisfactory and it didn't have the same flair and signature style as when I do my regular nudes. And yes, I've shot guys before that I have been satisfied with. I've said I'll revisit that venture again, but I've ignored that option for now. I did a post a while back whereby I suggested every photographer who shoots nudes needs to do this at least once. Unbearable Lightness then suggested I post the images I had done, and I did. So I'll add that back in at some point, but the goal is to work creative aspects of the "capture of self" in various ways and master this skill.

A first attempt at the self-nude.
Hadn't tried it since.
A couple of other areas I think I'll pay more attention to is motion, low-light, and time-exposure photography. I don't get to do these as much, but I have a strong interest in it. I can actually combine all 3 of those doing a moving subject, at night using long shutters. Should be interesting and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Every so often, you need to get out of your comfort zone and shake things up a little. I can even try this out on myself and thus add in self portraits done, while moving around at night using extended shutter speeds. Regardless, it'll be good to just play. I hear of photographers saying all the time that they wish they could work on personal projects. That should be the priority. While I want to always earn a living from photowork, I never want to make it into a job. I don't take on assignments that I don't honestly want to do. There has to be an element of fun, challenge, or benefit just a regular assignment. You have to pay me a lot of money to make me shoot something I don't really want to shoot. I want to be successful as a professional photographer. I want to earn a really good living at it. But I don't want to chase the dollars at any cost. I'm not interested in forfeiting my love for photos for my need to make money. 


I’ve always cared more about taking pictures than about the art market. - Annie Leibovitz


© 2010 Terrell Neasley


 I'll throw in large scale panoramas as well, since I have a Gigapan that I haven't put to great use just yet. I can also add to that better artistic use of my 24mm Tilt/Shift lens. Those are probably the only two pieces of equipment that I have that I have not put hard to work. I've used them, but I haven't pushed their abilities. I haven't tapped their potential and integrated them into my workflow yet and I need to change that. Otherwise, why have them? The Gigapan system is a robotic camera mount that you sit onto a tripod. It can be programmed use your camera to take pics, one frame at a time over a selected area and then you stitch those images together for a high-resolution pano. The tilt/shift lens was originally designed for architecture use. It allows you to correct for the distortion of lines that may converge due to the shape of the lens. If you've ever tried to take a picture of a tall building, you realize you need a wide-angle lens to get it all in one frame, but then the edges of the building look as if they curve or lean backwards. With a T/S lens you can correct this by adjusting knobs on the lens that will move the front element of the lens left or right as well as upward or downward as necessary. A more popular use is capturing wide-area busy scenes that, because of the selective focus, they look like miniatures.These are the same functions you get with a large format view camera. A view camera is what you see that looks like an accordion and a person gets under a sheet behind the camera.

Last office job, State Treasurer's Office.
See? I clean up nice!
And then of course, I still have my continued nudes throughout the year. I'll always be doing that, especially now since I've elected to regularly do an annual for all the models I shoot. I'm getting better on my feet now, so I expect I'll get to do a shoot toward the end of the month. I have a project in mind already, but it will take more strength in my leg before I undertake it. I'm still not able to extend my knee out all the way and its still quite painful when I try to do so and stand on it. But I'm getting there. There is definitely measured progress, but I have to keep things light for the time being. You can even see a tad bit more muscle tone in my thigh muscle. Patience...

4 comments:

unbearable lightness said...

I absolutely LOVE your self portraits - every one of these is beautifully composed and focused on a different aspect of who you are, a door into your inner world.

You are expressive and genuine as a model. Yet, no one else could possibly have captured you with some depth.

Photo Anthems.com said...

Thanks UL. I plan on stepping it up. Why should I shoot anyone else better than I do myself!

Karl said...

You are a very brave man. Way to go out there and do it.

Photo Anthems.com said...

I certainly plan on challenging myself!