“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”
-- Eudora Welty
|Wood mannequins with a camera 4-2-13|
Sometimes I struggle.
As a self-portrait photographer, I struggle with where, or if, my images fit in among the over-abundance of self-portraits, or "selfies," flooding the Internet.
We've all seen them: camera or cell phone held at arm's length or aimed into the spit-spattered bathroom mirror, at girls playing at sultry by making a pouty duck face, or a peace sign, or both. At dudes lifting the lower edges of their t-shirts to flash their abs. Or making that aloof model face supposed to make us believe you aren't really aiming the camera at yourself.
I am not on Facebook or MySpace or Instagram. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am on Twitter). But from what I hear tell, there are people who take hundreds and hundreds of pictures of themselves to post on their social media sites for their so-called "friends" to oooh and aaah (or not) over.
Therein lies my struggle.
Because if you power up my laptop and scroll through the folders marked "Self Portraits", or "No Day Without Art," or "A Face A Day," you will find hundreds and hundreds of pictures, taken by me, of me.
I even have a blog (and you are reading it) of daily self portraits. And yes, "others," but still.
Are they "selfies?"
Am I that shallow?
That lonely, that I can't find a real friend to take my picture, so I have to do it myself?
I'm not sure.
One difference between what I do, and what most selfie "photographers" do, is in the motive. Like I said, I don't do Facebook. I am not forcing my self-portraits on my friends, real or otherwise. Anyone who watns to is invited to look, but my self-portraits began (and remain) as a hugely personal art-therapy vehicle to shuttle me through some difficult life terrain. Yes, I have a blog, and my self-portraits are now out there in the ether along with everybody else's, but I don't force anyone to look at them.
I don't ask anyone to "like" them.
I don't invite comments on my blog, and that's for the plain and simple reason that I don't do it for anyone else.
I do it for me.
If nobody looked at my blog, I'd still do it. The only reason I opened my project up to an Internet audience in the first place was as a self-challenge to exercise some other creative muscles.
I am not trying to defend myself.
At least I don't think I am.
Maybe I am trying to reassure myself.
Not that I'm better than anyone else. God forbid. But trying to reassure myself that self-portraiture, even though it has become so diluted and tainted in our Facebook-frenzied world, might still exist as a valid genre. Maybe I am trying to reassure myself that I do this for a meatier reason.
I am not pretentious enough to claim that I am a "serious artist" or that my self-portraiture "work" has some deep meaning or redemptive purpose. Well, for me it has deep meaning and a redemptive purpose, which is why I started doing it in the first place. But everyone else can take it or leave it. Love it or hate it. That's not up to me.
Have I had moments of conflict where I wonder if what I do, if what I have committed myself to, if what I deem necessary enough to pursue on a daily basis, is an utterly futile and wasteful abuse of the valuable and limited time I have on Earth?
I'm having one of those moments right now.
And the best way I know to traverse those moments, to navigate the tangled inner paths of conflict and struggle, is to take pictures of them.
So that is exactly what I'm going to do.