the photoshooter's journey from taking to making



Birthday portrait, 2/8/22


LIKE MANY, I use myself as an experimental photographic subject. It’s not that I’m particularly keen on selfies: in fact, even tiptoeing into that mental mode is a little bewildering to me. However, unlike the rest of the world, I am always “on hand” and so, when I get a notion about composition, lighting, etc., as regards the human face, I become my own lab rat. However, in most cases, the results are merely instructive: that is, I am not seeing any new truths revealed in my face. I mean, I know myself, but I don’t know myself.

It gives me a headache.

I go a little further with all this foolery once a year, on my birthday, almost as a kind of guilt-ridden homework assignment. I try to set things up on purpose, to come as close to studio-level standards of control and strategy as possible. For some reason, I feel like I should make the attempt to take the measure of time’s ravages, or at least re-visit how I feel while living inside my face versus how that face advertises me to the world. I don’t know what will work or not work year-to-year, or even frame-to-frame. What they say about a lawyer representing himself having a fool for a client certainly applies to self-portraiture as well. Is this the real me, or a “me” that I’m sculpting for public consumption, a me that I approve of as a marketable mask?

There are other questions. If I am regularly in the business of making pictures, then I obviously do not accept the world on its own terms. That is, I massage what I find until I like it. Won’t that kind of creatively built-in fakery necessarily color the results of any depiction I create of myself? Do I even want a completely honest, unfiltered version of me? Does anyone else?

It’s often said that we are all the heroes of our own story, and so I suspect that my self-portraits are at least as untrustworthy as any other tale I choose to tell with a camera, a kind of inward fan fiction. Here’s me at my best, or my most protected, or my most skillfully manipulated. Anyone buying?

It gives me a headache.


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