playing the part
Now that the Shift series is complete I wanted to talk about self portraits. I have done self portraits in the past for class assignments in college and I loathed them. The Shift series was the first time I enjoyed doing self portraits. Mainly because the series was conceptual. These are not pictures of me but rather a character in a story that I as a photographer am telling. So I thought I dive into why I choose to model for the Shift series, what I learned from it and some tips to doing self portrait work.
My main reason for modeling for the Shift series was quite honestly, convenience. I usually have a short window of time to work in. I knew it would be tedious finding someone to model for me during the hours I had available to photograph in for no money. So if I wanted to do this type of work, I would need to play that role as well. As it turned out it was a great experience to work both sides of the camera. I have new found respect for models. It is tiring work and sometimes our ideas as artist completely take over, leaving a model with a physical challenge that can be nearly impossible. I learned quickly to take these challenges in to consideration before hand while concepting on paper. Thinking about how the body is going to work in the image, how will the prop be used, what is the safest way to execute this idea, etc. This helped me work more efficiently as photographer while still leaving room for play. After all some of the best ideas happen as you are creating them.
Since I do still-life and food photography, I use a tripod and remote for most of my shots. When you are doing self portrait work these two things are a must. I like to set my timer on a delay. This gives me time to stash the remote, either in a pocket, somewhere in my clothing, my hands, behind a prop or I just toss it off to the side. I never have someone press the button for me, to me that is like having someone else sign your work. But it can be helpful to have an assistant or friend to work with you. I also find mirrors very useful in self portrait work, I use them when ever possible. They are especially useful when working in tight spaces. If you have the equipment, tethering your camera to your ipad would also be a great tool for self portrait work. Lastly I always keep a sketchbook, I draw rough sketches of my ideas, jot down a list of things I need and I write out my thoughts behind the image, why am I making this image and what is it that I am communicating visually.
For me this series was a great learning experience and took my work to a new level which I am excited about. I enjoyed the experience and freedom of working independently for this project. Although I plan to continue to model for my own images it’s not my intention to become a self-portrait artist. I just want to share stories, secrets and thoughts visually. k