Why I Take Self Portraits

I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.
— Friday Kahlo

I feel as though it’s important to be totally and completely honest with you when it comes to this particular subject because as a lot of you may know by now, self portraits hold a special place in my heart. I've personally struggled with body image, resulting in unhealthy eating habits, anxiety attacks, reckless behavior, and an overall hatred of who I was. I was the lowest I had ever been when I started photographing myself, literally just out of frustration and not knowing what else to do, but seeing those raw images of myself and allowing myself to be so vulnerable made me realize the importance of body peace and self love. I try to take as many photos of myself as I can as a reminder to love the imperfections. I have stretch marks, a chubby belly, and other things that don't live up to today's beauty standards, but all of these things make me who I am, and I realized there is absolutely no shame in loving myself.

When I was younger, I remember reading somewhere that because our generation spends too much time documenting moments, we fail to truly experience what’s in front of us. But I disagree. I photograph all sorts of different things, but that doesn’t mean I’m not taking the time to fully take in the moment. I like to see it as an opportunity to experience the same moment later in my life, regardless of how far away from that moment I might be. Brains warp and distort memories, but photographs are forever. 

So I take self portraits when I don’t feel beautiful, and when my confidence feels like its a million miles away, because I know that confidence is merely a feeling and doesn’t actually drastically change my appearance. I take self portraits on the days my thighs feel too thick and my belly folds in a way that I wish it wouldn’t, when my hair feels dull and the skin under my eyes has turned blue. When I feel confident and attractive, I don’t think about taking self portraits. I want to get out on those days and experience the world and honestly, I want people to see me in person, living, smiling, glowing, happy to be existing. 

My self portraits definitely come from a place of sadness and in a way, forcing myself to get in front of the camera is a form of self care. There’s something therapeutic in not having an immediate result when taking these images. Surely I could run to the back of my camera each time I take a photo, but I think that takes away from the experience. Being in the dark, and only seeing my reflection looking back at me in the lens gives a sense of comfort, and in my experience, allows for more creativity and emotion. It’s just me in front of the camera. No expectations. No standards. Just me. 

I take self portraits because I need the vulnerability. I need to know that I am capable of stepping away from my insecurities for a few minutes to capture a moment in time, to capture what I looked like on October 6th, 2015 or June 13th, 2017 or January 1st, 2016. I need to remember what I felt those days.

 I used to be so afraid to be in front of the camera until I realized how ridiculously inconsiderate that is. So many times I have asked people to stand directly in front of me, regardless of how confident they might be feeling that day, and to be photographed, and to just totally trust a human with a camera to permanently document moments of their life. And it’s terrifying. We are constantly being pushed and pulled and told how we should look and I know firsthand that it’s not easy to let all of that go for some photographs.

There’s always a bit of fear that surfaces when I import the images, but I take comfort in the fact that I know not all of them will turn out. And this is going to sound SO CHEESY, but in a way.. now hear me out.. in a way, it’s sort of like life. YEAH I SAID IT. I related self portraits to LIFE. IN. GENERAL. But seriously, not every moment or aspect of your life will be amazing. You will have really really shitty moments but those absolutely do not take away from life’s most beautiful moments. I could take 20 terrible images, but those do not affect the one image that turned out. I will always have that one beautiful image even if I had to take a few bad ones to get there.

I could spend all day making feeble attempts to explain why self portraits are important to me, and why I often take them, but it really comes down to the fact that it makes me feel better. The time and effort put into creating an image of myself is quite literally just time and effort put into healing. I am taking something that feels broken and showing myself that it’s not, and I honestly think there's bravery in that.