Women: feel ashamed because you don’t post pictures of yourself online. Don’t you have any self-esteem?
Women: feel ashamed because you post pictures of yourself online. You’re so narcissistic and beauty-driven.
Women: feel ashamed because you’re not beautiful enough in your photos. You could be so pretty, why don’t you just smile? Does it always have to be an action shot?
Women: feel ashamed because you try too hard to be beautiful in your photos. Make-up and heels, really? This is the twenty-first century.
Too slutty, too prudent, too smart, not smart enough, too tall, too short, too serious, too silly. (Pause for intake of breath.) Too fat, too skinny, too pale, too dark, too self-promotional, too timid, too feminine, too masculine, too fashionable, too sweaty, too-
As a photographer who learned quite a bit of her craft via “selfies” (for lack of other subjects on which to practice), I have spent hours studying how light falls on my particular human form. After many frames of feeling shame—(we fill our shame space up with mercilessly ingenious combinations of the above “too” statements)—I began to recognize my bodily form for what it is— a work of art. An individual installment in an epic, eyebrow raising series called: the history of human bodies. (Subtitled: “Hair in strange places,” “What on earth is the purpose of that lump?” and, “Skin: fickle as sand on a wave-beaten beach.”)
As a result, I prescribe clients/friends who are camera shy/nervous for their portrait sessions a half an hour of alone time taking selfies. Allow yourself to become familiar with your physical self—move it, shake it, squeeze it, bend it, admire its angles and curves and bumps and glows. You’ve been told your whole life it (and by extension, you) are not good enough. Why would you show up to our session believing you were worthy of having your (“I’m broken/bloated/blotchy”) physical self captured?
(“Can you hide my zits/bad skin/double chin/folds/ insecurities?”)
There is nothing like shooting a raw, honest, and affirming portrait of somebody. No gimmicks, skin smearing photoshop, or silly angles. Just measured light and a person who happens to be wearing a body at the moment. It thrills me so deeply and irrevocably that I chose to make a living out of it. Sure, I use full-frame sensors and light bouncers and depths of fields a sliver wide—but you better believe I’ve felt it in grainy Instagrams and polaroids and yes, even in stamp-sized “prof pics,” the infamous visual letterheads of our online, edited selves.
What I work so hard to “immortalize?” A split second free of body shame.
This piece (link below) does a beautiful job of pointing out that: a woman’s worth is still horribly, screamingly wrapped up in how beautiful she is perceived to be; seemingly obvious displays of “narcissism” are often displays of feelings of worthlessness (check out the wealth of research done by Brené Brown); we seek out affirmation in the online world (with varying consequences); the “selfie” isn’t as fatuous, simple, or harmless as it seems.
But it does unfortunately shame women- in this case, women such as myself who find creativity/silliness/an outlet/self-expression and experimentation in “selflies”- as simple, vapid, unacademic and unthinking pawns of the “DO YOU THINK I’M PRETTY!” world.