How I Started Taking Self Portraits

The year 2020, which was only 3 years ago, but for many of us still seems like yesterday, and was crazy year. The world dealt with a global pandemic that sparked lock downs, security measures, travel bans, and 6.63 million deaths. It was, to say the least, a rough time for Planet Earth and it’s human inhabitant’s.

I myself being one of those inhabitants, was looking for a project to focus my anxious and nervous energy on, and for some reason decided to study self portrait photography. My reasoning was, it was something that did not require me to leave the house, and it was something that would be a big challenge for me, because at this point in time I did NOT like having my own photograph taken. So I thought perhaps that it would both help me learn new skills as a photographer and work on my self confidence as well. I was right on both counts.

The very first thing that I learned about self portraits is a truth that applies to every single person who stands in front of a cameras lens. Whatever flaw you see in yourself, no one else sees it. Read that again and think about it carefully. I am serious when I tell you, whatever imperfection you obsess over, and ask photographers to cover, erase, change, or hide, no one…else…see it!

As human beings we have a body, and they all come in different shapes, colors, sizes, and models. That is one of the simple truths of being born, but for some strange reason society is always fussing about the latest and greatest “trend” that often focuses on some sort of unattainable body standard. For example when I was in high school it was all about women being pencil thin, and today a curvy women is more desirable. Bottom line, stop listening to trends, because trends are and always will be a passing fad. Embrace who you are and stop obsessing over some perceived flaw.

Let me give you another example…In 2004 I was serving a mission in California. My fellow service partner and I had been invited over to a families home for dinner, and after we were all fed the daughter of the family asked if she could play a violin solo, and get my advice on her performance. She knew from conversation that I had played the Viola since I was in the 5th grade and wanted my “expert” opinion.

She played her piece beautifully, and made only one, simple mistake. How do I know she made a mistake? Because as soon as she made that mistake she scrunched up her face, pursed her lips and said “sorry!” and then continued on with the music. Afterwards she put her instrument down and immediately offered an apology again for missing a note. I pointed out to her that the music was beautiful, it was obvious that she had worked hard and practiced the piece for many hours in order to play such a complicated work of music, but despite all of that work and her accomplishment, she focused on the single missed note. I mentioned to her that if she had not made a face, apologized…twice…and drawn my attention to the flaw I probably would not have even noticed, and would have just enjoyed the music as the beautiful number it was due to the dedication and hard work that she had committed to it.

It was the fact that she was pointing out the flaw that I even noticed it at all! This is true for photography as well. Whatever flaw you see in the photo, is often not seen by others unless you point it out. I have to remember this myself as both a model and photographer, and it has served me very well, when I remember to heed my own advice.

Moving on, almost 3 years ago to the date, I took my very first self portrait on my Canon EOS M50. It was a simple portrait, just me wearing my blue light glasses, sitting in front of my black Yule tree. Nothing special, but it was the start of what has so far been a 3 year journey. In the last 3 years I have taken dozens of self portraits, and I am pleased with the body of work I have collected so far, but what excites me even more is the years to come and seeing my self portraits evolve and change over the years.

I was not planning on this when I started the study of self portraits but for the last 3 years I have taken the same self portrait each year, always wearing my glasses, always sitting in front of the tree. Each photo unique. Each photos representing a new year and a new opportunity for adventure.

I have no idea what 2023 will have in store for me, but I know there will be many self portraits in my future as the tradition continues…