Self-portraiture is an important part of my life for three reasons:
I believe adults need play just as much as children do. Grown-up life comes with so many responsibilities, it’s easy to overlook our need to have fun. For me, engaging in self-portraiture is my favourite way to play.
Playfulness sparks curiosity and experimentation. The second benefit of self-portraiture is that it provides a platform for trying out techniques, pushing the boundaries of what I can achieve as well as for testing technical procedures and working out how to overcome challenges. It also allows me to hone my craft and sharpen my skills for my day job.
Self-portraiture is a form of self-expression. By utilizing a creative form in which to express ourselves we enable healthy exploration of our inner most beings. I believe that doing so is good for our souls and good for our mental health.
2019 has been a challenging year for me. I spent a good chunk of it in England, with my mother, who was diagnosed with an incurable illness. Whilst supporting someone else as they reach the end of their life I found that everyone kept telling me to make space for myself. But I also found I could not do that. All I could do was to be there for her, putting myself in the back of a cupboard in my mind, to which I temporarily lost the key. Now that my mother is gone, I have come back. I now have the space and the distance to explore what being alive without her is all about.
This past weekend was the first weekend I’d spent in my home, with my camera and all my equipment, in over three months. I hadn’t created a self-portrait since that weekend back at the beginning of January when I first learned she was ill. I needed dedicate time to myself, to play, to experiment and to create a self-portrait to honor both myself and my mother.
THE ART OF SELF PORTRAITURE
I am part of a Community of Self Portrait Artists who started out on Google+ but now have a home on Facebook. Every week they issue a themed challenge. The challenge last weekend was IDENTITY. I felt raw. I wanted to show up as my raw self. No make-up, no air-brushing, no coiffed hair, just lazy-Sunday-me. I wore a dress I picked up at the Charity Shop near the nursing home where my mum spent her last days. The dress was spotted with polka-dots. Each one of them felt like a hole that my mum had left in me. So I filled each hole up with a piece of her. My mother is gone now, but she will always be with me. There is no me without her. We will always carry those we love and have loved with us. They become part of who we are and who we will be.
I can facilitate self-expression-like sessions for others who do not have the photography skills to create imagery this way for themselves. It’s fun, cathartic and a great way to create a tangible memory. If you’d like to find out more about how I could work with you on something like this, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text me on +1 1415 669 4066.
Paul Johnston5 days ago
Hello Sam! Good to see you again! Sorry to hear about the passing of you mother. Being a caretaker is a very difficult job. Love the above image and think filling the polka-dots with memories of your mother brilliant! Wishing you the best! Paul Johnston