2011 - Favorite Self Portraits
When i started working on my year in review post i realized one thing almost immediately: i absolutely love a bunch of my self portraits from this year. Now, i've been taking pictures of myself for..... more than 10 years. 12 maybe? And it's always been a double edged sword, and mostly something born out of necessity more than want. It has gradually become less of that, no doubt, and it has been a really long time since i've taken an image and seen myself. I dunno, it's a weird thing to try and explain, because sometimes i'm definitely tired of my face when i've shot a whole bunch of self portraits in a row, but at the same time there is always a big disconnect, because if i saw every image as being of myself, i probably wouldn't take self portraits ever again. Which isn't self deprecating thing, more just something i'd be uncomfortable with. While a lot of the self portraits, more so than my images of other people, contain a part of me, or often reflect something i'm going through or feeling, it's not ever a "this is exactly how i am" sort of deal. Make sense? It's more like "this is me playing a part, so it's not really me at all". Ugh, i don't feeling like i'm getting this out right.
So, moving on! My point is that i don't always enjoy my self portraits, sometimes wishing i'd waited and shot them with someone else instead. Something this year was definitely different though. Some of the shots came from a need to just shoot, some were boredom, some were planned, it was a mix of motivations like it always is, yet at the same time there was more to it. But it kinda feels like that for most of my images from this year, period. So, who knows? Maybe there wasn't really anything different and the year just clicked. And maybe there was some magic. All i can say for sure is i'm super happy with the outcome of more of the self portraits than i've been in all these years of doing them. And i figured instead of just talking and/or posting my favorites i'd stick with the self portraits that give me the warm fuzzies in one way or another.
[FYI. These are in order of when i took them, not how much i love them.]
I'm pretty certain this was one of those late night inspirations that came out of nowhere, though i know for sure i was so exhausted by the setup that i almost shelved the idea, even if just for the night. Then was exhausted all over again by the execution of it. The lights are typical cheap christmas lights i wrapped around a wire wreath frame B bought but never used. The setup was exhausting mostly because i ran around the house like a mad woman trying to find the wreath frame, then all the lights i would need, and it took way much longer than it seemed it should have to wrap all the strands around the frame. Once it was done it was crazy heavy, and attaching it to hang off my background stand with fishing line [a must have!] in an even manner was a pain. It took three strands of the fishing line evenly spaced, lots of knots [which hurt to make] and lots of clamps to keep it steady and even hanging from the stand.
Then i had to sit on the floor underneath it, and be as still as possible [since it was a long exposure] while at the same time repeatedly setting the light wreath to spin before each shot. I DID take a few shots with no lights and my just sitting there with better light so that i didn't have to be so still, but actually didn't end up liking it. It just didn't match up right, the still and sharp with the blurry and moving lights. So it's not the crispest of images, but whatever. That's not always going to be what matters. At least not to me.
Also, that hair. OMG, that HAIR. I really thought i'd ruined it with that hair, to the point where i almost deleted all the images in camera and walked away, and even after was sure i'd get a comment from someone asking why i gave myself a beard. It's also the best example of why and how i fuck up my wigs so quickly. Turns out they aren't supposed to be twisted up with the ends knotted up around your head.
But this was pretty much what i had in my head [minus the hair, because that wasn't part of the "vision" of this image or whatever you want to call it] and so i was happy. It was a good start to the year i think. And i still have the light wreath tucked away in the closet, waiting.
Most people prefer the one with the skull, but this one is my favorite.
These magnifying sheets are something i came across on ebay years ago [possibly as many as 5 fricken years] and that i put off buying for that long. Because i wasn't "sure". Sometimes i don't know what to do with myself, because they were cheap, so not something i'd ever chalk up to a waste of money, and yet i waited forever. Ugh.
This whole shoot was both well thought out in some [last minute] ways and an afterthought. I actually had a whole other idea planned, that i intended to shoot with someone else, but i wanted to test them out first, see how it would need to work lighting wise, all that sort of stuff. So besides knowing i wanted them to be in front of me magnifying certain parts i went in a partially blind. Once i figured out how to hang them [again, fishing line, and double sided tape, but they needed to be connected otherwise they moved too much] i had to start fitting in all the other pieces, like clothing, background, etc. Considering that there would only be pieces magnified i went with clothing/accessories that were almost just pieces themselves. The old lace dress is super stiff and easy to tear so it's riddled with tears and gaping holes, as is the hat headpiece thing. [Which is not something anyone has ever pointed out, so i'm not sure if those little bits have been noticed and connected. But, now you know. And for the record, i don't get upset or anything when people don't point out these details, it just leaves me not knowing if anyone sees/understands them.] Ideally the parts not behind the magnifiers would have been darker, less noticeable, but given that it was a self portrait that would have either required way more setup to selectively block the lighting, or rely on post editing, which i already knew would be tedious [to remove the fishing like and as much tape as possible] so i decided to just drop that part for this. And then after these first, more plain shots, i ran around my studio trying to find whatever i could to hold up behind the magnifiers. I think it's why i like this one more than the one with the skull. That's more random, doesn't make any sense to me beyond a purely humorous aspect [because i always see it as she's trying to help the skull see better!] whereas the regular one is more in line with what i had in mind, a girl who isn't quite complete, and so the pieces of her don't quite fit together right.
And i never got around to shooting the idea i originally planned, but i think i've come across the perfect model and plan on doing it soon-ish. Granted, i think it's either going to be a bit ridiculous, or i am going to simplify it, but we'll see. And i accidentally stumbled across a way to "hang" them without wire/string/fishing line and tape/glue/etc. That alone has me giddy as hell.
Portrait of a Lady 2
This is another one of those planned, but not planned things, another test that grew into its own in about 5 seconds. The concept was simple enough, a girl whose death was creeping up on her, with the whole double exposure effect being the plan, and what i bought the mask for. [I actually spent SO MUCH TIME trying to find the cheapest and most realistic skull, but most were too small or too pricey, and instead settled on a mask that was too big and was not at all bone-ish or realistic looking!]
The first one i posted, that is more mask than face, and that i whipped up in no time whatsoever (considering how i usually work) i now kinda hate, and i damn near loathe the black and white full on mask one. This one i adooooooore. [This] is basically what the original plan was, minus the double exposure effect because i didn't want to overuse it. It's obviously a much more literal version of the idea, and for me it doesn't even compare to the self portrait. It's just how things go sometimes. For me, portrait of a lady 2 was the accidental winner of best representation of the idea.
The Great Unveiling
This is one of those where i remember very little as far as the idea/concept is concerned. I bought the wig for something else i think, or maybe just because i'm super obsessed with really long hair and figured i'd figure out a use for it. One this long has been on my wish list for a while, but again i kept putting it off because i didn't have a precise shoot to use it in. [I try to hold off on purchases until i have an idea and/or model in mind, otherwise i'd never have any money.] And i'm pretty sure this idea came to me only after i had decided to use the newly arrived wig for a self portrait, and began searching the studio room for ideas on what exactly i should do.
I think it was as simple as seeing the bit of fabric [bargain bin at walmart] and it clicking in my head that it would be rising off a sort of circus sideshow freak with an incredible pile of hair. Funny enough, the things i remember VERY clearly are the technical aspects of shooting it, and how big of a nightmare shooting with that wig was. The wig quality is pretty awful, it's definitely one i will never be able to shoot up close because of how obviously fake it is, and i was worried even at this distance it would look bad, so i shot this through a sheet of clear vinyl to soften it up a bit. The clear vinyl isn't straight, it has waves in it, which was super obvious and made it so i had to add a layer after the fact to soften those weird plastic ripples up some, because removing them all is sometimes out of the question. I also couldn't use my studio flashes [reflections and space issue] so i think this was my first time using my one and only continuous light, which i hated, and which died about 6 months after i bought it. Epic waste of money, but i didn't cry a single tear for it. And hanging the fabric was a pain as well. [Fishing line and safety pins, hung from the ceiling as well as attached to the black backdrop.] I had to fix it a million times, and still work with it afterwards.
Here's a picture i found of the setup before i put the vinyl up:
[I think that pile of boxes on the floor also adequately gives you an idea of how often i make just enough space in my messy as hell studio to shoot in, and not an inch more.]
Which brings me to the pain that was the wig. It's as long as i am tall, so when i'd sit and move around , the wig would tangle in my toes. So then i'd stand up forgetting the wig was tangled, and it would rip right off my head. Then i had about 2 feet of space to squeeze through [between the backdrop stand holding the vinyl and the light] and each time i got up to check the camera [this was before i bought the 60d] the wig would get caught in either the stand for the backdrop or the stand for the light. It was a nightmare, and as a result, not a very long shoot, because i very quickly got to the point where i said "fuck.this.shit." and gave up.
So, besides that i simply do just like this image, i think the reason it's one of my favorites is because regardless of everything that was obviously working against me, it was still a success.
You Don't Sing To Me Anymore
Not surprising that this one is here, i wouldn't think.
Instead of rehashing what is admittedly kinda foggy to me now, i'm going to just copy and paste what i wrote when i originally posted this: "I came in here earlier, to do a few things on my computer, started listening to music and then suddenly began feeling really weird. I don't know what it was, but in a second i was overly emotional and had the overwhelming need to take pictures. I posted on twitter and facebook and likened it to suddenly feeling like i had demons to exorcise. Immediately. My heart was racing, i felt jittery, it was the oddest thing. Anyways, so, yeah, i couldn't NOT listen. And this is what i did. [And i love it!] And now i feel fine."
Now, it's super interesting to me that i was suddenly hit by both an overwhelming mental and physical reaction, to pretty much nothing, and it led me to take a picture with an item i had another overwhelming mental and physical reaction to. You'd think i'd do the opposite. Or at least you'd think a normal person would do the opposite.
I'd bought the cicadas against my better judgement. When they got here i didn't open them for a really long time, because i couldn't stomach the idea of looking at them, let alone touching them. The plan was to find someone else to shoot them with, and beyond that i don't really think i had a plan at all. So the fact that i broke down and did it at such a time, when i felt so bizarre already, is even more bizarre to me, because that's not me. I usually don't operate that way on my best of days. But, for reasons i'll never understand, i did it. Luckily it worked, so my freak outs that led to this was well worth it. And i kinda love the the fear i felt is frozen in this shot forever. [Though, i do think at least half that look is because i kept telling myself "don't move too much! if you move it might fall and then you'll have to touch it more than you already have to!"]
Everything else i pretty much already talked about in the videos i've done, so i won't go over it all again.
The Last Song You'll Ever Sing
This is on my favorites more because it amuses the hell out of me. This isn't what i wanted to shoot. This isn't even what i decided to shoot after the first idea looked dumb. This was the result of the 3rd idea, a last ditch effort, and of my telling myself i was more than comfortable with these cicada's and their wings to glue them to my mouth. And that hey, lets work with the fact that i glued my mouth shut and needed to stretch it out to loosen the glue, and boy i bet that'll look creepy, so i should take pictures before i rip those fuckers off.
But what resulted right after this shot was snapped was this: I wasn't thinking and started breathing through my open mouth. Which caused the wings to flap against my face. Which, given that i had my eyes closed and can be a bit slow sometimes, didn't immediately register, and so i started to panic, thinking that an actual giant bug had flown into my face. [To be fair, i have this odd ability to attract bugs to my head, and i've had bugs fly into almost every bit of my face. Including a moth, that went straight into my eye, and given that i just reacted, got slapped to death there.] So this all led to a repeat of the previous shot with the cicada. There was shaking, crying, an inability to breathe right, etc.
That's what i get for thinking i'm a bad ass who can handle bits of large dead bugs on my face.
Now! Honorable mention! Or maybe i should say an image i like the least from this year:
In The Red
I don't hate it. I don't even dislike it. It's ok. I'm not entirely sure why everyone else seems to like it so much.
It's one of those ideas i would have rather shot with someone else, but it is one of those things i expected to go bad, and i don't really like doing bad things to other people, especially someone i haven't worked with before, so i went on ahead with it myself.
And i knew, I KNEW, that the stuff you can buy to spray your hair different colors for halloween is not something you should spray in your eyes, because i've done it before and it hurts really, REALLY bad, and for a decent amount of time, and will likely leave one temporarily blind. [Not to mention, don't spray it inside, in a small, enclosed room. That wonderful, hair spray taste stays in your mouth for a while. I was also spitting red for the rest of the day, even though i didn't spray it on my mouth this time.] But oh my god, this was bad. "I might need to go to the hospital" kinda bad. Easily the most pain i've ever put myself through, and the most uncomfortable i've been from the beginning of the process till the end.
That said, i love the texture the stuff creates and the way it photographs, that it's cheap and i can spray it on anything, so this probably isn't the last time i use it. I just need a little more time to pretend to forget the pain.
God help me.
And that's about it! I'm waiting to post my whole 2011 year in review post till after the first of the year, just because i'm bound to shoot more if i post it before the year is over! It'll pretty much guarantee it actually. That's how i roll. In the meantime if you're curious you can check out my 2011 folder on flickr [here] though it'll definitely be incomplete compared to my post since i always include images that were basically extras or that i never liked enough to post, but didn't hate enough to get rid of.
If anyone else ends up doing any year in review type posts feel free to link to them in the comments! I love being able to look at a years worth of progress at once. I find it super insightful and just.... interesting.
Hope everyone has a good holiday!