Discovering Self: Creative Self Portraiture | by Aly Nickerson
A feeling. People often ask me what inspires my self portraits, and that is the answer; a feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the feeling sometimes is “Well, I really like those flowers in the front yard, and I feel like they might make a good photo”. Other times the feeling is deep, intense, primal. Anxiety, sadness, anger, happiness, etc. Self portraits are and always will be about more than photography, they are YOU, they are vulnerable, and we all can find a way to channel that vulnerability into something great.
A self portrait is an image with SOME part of -you- in the frame and composed by -you-. I am a FIRM believer that everyone should be taking self portraits even if you never share them.
You will learn a deeper understanding for your subjects whether that be clients or family members. I believe it is humbling to be in front of the camera.
We all can use a boost in confidence every once in awhile.
It allows you to have no boundaries or expectations. It’s shot by you, for you, of you.
Which leads me to...
THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO TEST THE WATERS AND TRY NEW THINGS!
I began my journey in January 2018, and with self portraiture alone, have taught myself techniques for not only self portraits, but also how to pose myself, how to light myself, and how to create art in post processing.
By August of 2018, I began to see a pattern with what I was drawn to with self portraits, and that was color and florals. I found myself scouring my neighborhood, my friends neighborhoods, and anywhere I could for flowers to use within my portraits. I befriended a local flower farmer who generously donated spent blooms to me in exchange for a friendship. This is the point when I realized a personal project within my personal project had been born; Flowers and Foliage of Self.
My first few photos for this series were all composed in camera; mostly by placing myself among flowers, or flowers around me.
Eventually I had the idea to go take photos of blooms and foliage in my neighborhood. I’d go on walks and snap photos of whatever caught my eye. I thought MAYBE I could figure out a way to add these flowers to self portraits, without sticking myself directly in my neighbors blooming trees. Thus was born, my first collage self portrait.
Now, you don’t have to be a Photoshop master to use Photoshop, and you definitely don’t have to know it in and out to use a few simple features. I personally am not proficient in Photoshop as I am in Lightroom, but these self portraits challenged me to at least TRY to make what was in my head come alive and Lightroom just wasn’t cutting it for me.
So, readers, I challenge you. Don’t pass by this opportunity for creative growth. Grab your talent by the horns and dip your feet in. Close yourself in a room, and get WEIRD. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to love the photos right away. Look at them, edit what you want, and come back in a few days, weeks, or months. Revisit images you dislike and try a creative crop, flipped perspective, a double exposure in Photoshop, etc. Self portraits aren’t always magic immediately. They sometimes take time and patience to see what you actually have in front of you. At the end of the day, this is all for you, and the opportunity to grow both to love yourself, and creatively, is HUGE. Also, give yourself grace. None of us are perfect, the photos won’t be perfect, and that is okay. So go make it happen friends, I can’t wait to see.