Experimentation was my focus for Self-Portraits weeks 13 to 16. Both in technique and concept. When I was still working full-time in a penitentiary, I struggled with keeping my positivity. As a reminder, that we all need to create, I had a post-it note taped to my monitor that said something like, “set aside time to experiment” that I’m pretty sure someone said in a podcast I was listening to. It resonated with me on a massive level. Remember when you were a kid and you would just make stuff because you wanted to? We spend so much of our time creating what we think others want. We want to be seen, heard, and valued. Sometimes so much that our hearts hurt and we begin to feel invisible.
This morning I was chatting with my husband and I realized what made one of the best years of my life the best. It was that I had limited technology. I was on maternity leave with my youngest. Having lived in Saskatchewan for only a year, I knew virtually no one. We only had “peasant vision” and we had no internet services. And you know what? It was probably also my most productive year!
During that year, I got back into a healthier physical state by lifting weights and playing Dance Dance Revolution while my baby napped. My cupboards were emptied of all the “junk” and “processed” foods and I spent time making healthier (and delicious) meals. I studied grammar and novel writing, made costumes and a Divination board game. After a family trip to BC, I discovered wire-wrapped jewelry and taught myself to make jewelry. Which I did for a couple of years and even made some money at. I read books, gardened, kept my house clean, and made memories with my family. And at the end of the year, I really wished I didn’t have to go back to work.
I spent an entire year learning, experimenting, and growing with my family. Never once did I compare myself, or the work I was doing, to others. Let me tell you, it felt damn good.
While I didn’t realize it until now, it’s that same experimentation and curiosity that underlies the creation of Self-Portraits Weeks 13 to 16. I wanted to try something. Maybe it worked. Maybe it didn’t. But gosh darn it, I created what I felt called to create. I also fully believe that you have to slog through making a bunch of crap in order to uncover the real gems. I’m not done digging yet.
This week I want to point you to Brooke Shaden as a source of self-portrait inspiration. When I first began my photography journey, a little over two years ago now, Brooke was one of my first sources of inspiration. She continues to inspire me and I am so excited to hear her presentation at the upcoming Land & See Virtual Conference. Brooke explores deep concepts with her art. But her work also reminds me that anything is possible. Sometimes I get sucked into the “if I could go” or “if I only had” but she creates in her bedroom, her bathroom, virtually anywhere. So, if she can make magic in a tiny space, so can I.
I must confess, I binge-watched a bunch of her tutorials on CreativeLive. I hooked my laptop up to my TV and watched them on the big screen everyday for like a week! LOL. I see she has some new ones to watch so that’ll be on my TO-DO List!
You can find Brooke here:
For this week’s theme of distortion, I wanted to explore actually distorting my features. Photographic Artist, Kelly Robitaille, is very well known for her surrealist portraits and served as inspiration for this. I call this piece Morticia and I am 100% attempting to channel that amazing goddess from the Addams Family! As you may have noticed, I love strange and unusual! I haven’t put this corset on in a couple of years, so I was super happy to find I could still get it done up! Small wins, people! It’s quite strange to manipulate your face into an altogether different shape, but also quite fascinating. And damn, don’t I look kinda hot?
I was also experimenting with my backdrop. I purchased all these digital papers that I had intended to use on my website but didn’t. This one in particular is a teal and gold paisley that makes a pretty good vintage wallpaper background! I often shoot on a plain background because I like adding textures in post-processing.
When I read the theme for this week, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. The challenge was in the how of it. My goal was to tell you something. I’m curious, without me telling you what my message was, how would you interpret it? What does it tell you? You can click on the picture to see the post and find out!
When I think about Serenity, I think about a particular moment in time. A moment where I felt completely at peace. I had no desire to be anywhere else or doing anything else. It might seem like a simple thing, but it was an incredibly profound moment for me that came entirely unexpectedly. Back in 2017, my husband and I went on a trip to Scotland, Ireland, and England. We came into some extra money and he got a motorcycle, I chose a trip to Ireland. It’s a large part of my heritage and my name happens to also be the name of the “seat of kings” in Ireland. I can’t wait to return.
Unfortunately, during that time, I was also experiencing deep emotional suffering. I hadn’t figured it out yet, and wouldn’t for quite some time, but the birth control device I was using was wreaking havoc on my mental health. This is a much bigger and deeper story than I wish to share right now, but I tell you so that you have some context about what this moment means for me. I was plagued with self-doubt and feeling like I didn’t belong. I hated how I was being treated by some people I thought were friends, but I also felt like I was somehow asking for it. It hurt. And it consumed all of my thoughts. I was in Ireland, I should have been worry-free, right?
Until I set foot on that beach, I obsessed about all my worries and feelings to my husband. I was probably ruining the trip for him a little bit with “why don’t they like me?” “Why aren’t I good enough?” “What’s wrong with me?” “Why do they treat me like a doormat?” I wasn’t in a good place. And even though he was trying to be patient, I’m certain he was sick of my negativity and bitching.
It was a rainy, blustery day when we went down to the beach on a whim. The waves were crashing in and the wind was howling. All in all, it was a bit chaotic. And I didn’t want to leave. I don’t know how to explain it, but when my feet hit the sand, it was like this total calm came over me. Like I was suddenly freed from all of my emotional burdens. I could just be. Just exist for a moment without all the baggage. Tears are currently sliding down my cheeks as I remember this moment. I hope I get to experience it once again.
Now, I didn’t consider myself a photographer when I was there. So funny to think about now considering how much time and effort I made in making beautiful pictures with my phone! I also recently lost access to the drive that has all of the files from that trip on it. So I saved the wave image from my facebook page and attempted to create something magical.
I took a photo of myself sitting on the floor of my livingroom and added it. But it still didn’t express the magic of the moment. So I added an element that represents the more spiritual part of me, a dragon. When I sit down to meditate, I always see dragons. So it felt right. Obviously, this self-portrait is probably the most personally meaningful one I’ve made.
I really wanted to express that I use my camera to communicate and, at first, I wasn’t really sure how to accomplish that. Suddenly, it came to me! Paper planes with messages on them. So I created an image. And I hated it. So I decided to peruse Joel Robison’s page for some inspiration. I found a couple of nighttime images that I liked and then I went to make supper. Sometimes you just need to step away from the project and let the ideas percolate.
I was searching through my images for a starry sky and was surprised that almost all of mine are also auroras! I guess I need to start shooting stars! Anyway, I came across an image I made of the comet Neowise. As excited as I was to capture it, I was disappointed with my composition and never shared it. As soon I brought it into Photoshop I had a vision of paper planes flying out and comets flying back in. Fun!
My take on this is that I use my camera to capture beauty that I then communicate to the Universe. And the Universe rewards me with more magic to capture!
So what did self-portraits weeks 13 to 16 teach me? Explore, experiment, make crappy images, and then make better ones. And, start limiting my time on social media.
I’m curious which self-portrait was your favourite? Let me know!
Interested in the previous dozen? You can find them here: