Over at Shutter Sisters today, my friend, Kristin Zecchinelli writes about proof – photographic proof that we exist, that we are here, that we are a part of the moments and memories that we capture with our cameras. Her post hit very close to home and to my heart. I remember one year, it was 2006 I think, as I was putting together a small scrapbook album for my youngest daughter’s birthmom for Christmas. I sorted through the photos of the girls for the year and found that in an entire year, not a single picture existed of my girls and I together. It hit me right between the eyes. I felt so sad. I felt invisible. It did not feel good at all.
This was long before I had the benefit of having connected with the wonderful women of Shutter Sisters. It never occurred to me to turn the camera back toward myself. I couldn’t, however, send an album to my daughter’s birthmom in which I did not exist at all. I had been there, I was present. I was always documenting. But I never handed off my camera and no one ever asked to take it from me for a shot that included me. There was trouble in my marriage at the time, trouble that I wasn’t yet aware of, but it hurt that even my husband didn’t see me. I asked him to take a picture of the girls and I to include in the gift album. I will always treasure this image because in that year, it was the only one.
I have since turned the camera back toward myself with much more frequency. It is not easy. I struggle, like so many of us do, with body image issues – I gained a significant amount of weight the year after my husband died and most of it is still with me. I don’t so much mind the signs of getting older, I am older. But I don’t like to see the weight. (This is really hard to even admit right now, but I’m on a brave streak today, so I’m just going to put it out there.)
When I started my 365 project this year, I also made a challenge to myself that I was going to do one self portrait a week for the year. This is week 16. I’ve managed to keep that commitment and have been posting those images to a Flickr group. Sometimes I really fall in love with the image and other times, I hold my breath and press the add photo button and don’t look back.
I’ve never really liked looking at pictures of myself. Most of the reason that I never handed the camera off to others to include me in the memories is because I never liked the results. I always wished that I could get a photo of myself that would be framed as I would frame a photo, that was shot with my eye and my sensitivities. Still, it never, ever occurred to me to make a practice of self-portraiture. Odd, isn’t it?
Even though I am now committed to the weekly selfies, I still struggle with the technical knowledge and skill to take the portrait of myself that I dream of. I love looking at the self portraits that my friends shoot and I want some of that magic. So, today, I leaped of the edge of my fear, breath held and heart pounding. I signed up for a six week self portrait class with Kristin and Meredith Winn. I’m scared to stand alongside so many women I admire, so many women who’s self portraiture I adore, and put myself in the shot. But I’m going to do it.
If not now, when? (As Kim Klassen asked us in Beyond Layers a few weeks ago.) This week, she challenged us to do something for ourselves, something loving and kind. This class is my gift to myself. I am going to be present, I am going to be seen.
Today, Kristin asked us to turn our cameras around and make a shot, proof that we are here in this moment. Just shoot – no processing, no fixing. Shoot not for the beauty, for the proof. Here’s proof –
I would love it if you shared a link to your proof with me here or drop over to Shutter Sisters and leave a link there.