Catching Myself in Reflections
Self-Empowerment Through Portraiture3 min read by
One would think that not having someone to shoot photos of me is why I end up with so many pictures of self on random street reflections.
When I do have someone, I tend to obsessively direct them to get the picture I have in mind. When shooting digital, perseverance and patience could probably get us there. However, when using film, getting it right eats me up. And the mystery of whether the image was shot correctly is only revealed after the fact.
All of us who shoot film these days do it for different reasons; still, there are a few prevalent concepts that connect us. I relate the most to the analogue medium’s imposed thoughtfulness.
My film collection is full of images of myself in mirrors, reflections or street signs. I would sometimes go back to the same spots and reshoot myself — like the two above and below at my grandma’s front door.
It’s interesting to see how the same place can feel so unalike at different points in time. I often catch myself reviewing the first photograph, reflecting how — or even who — I have transformed into within the next picture.
In doing so, I found my love for self-portraits. Not for the lack of someone to press the shutter button, but because I have realized that no one can depict me better than I. No one will capture my essence the way I choose to portray myself. And there’s something empowering in this realization.
Vivian Maier, an eternal source of inspiration, the queen of street photography, took self-portraits for decades. She loved the thrill of shooting and barely ever developed her rolls because she couldn’t afford to.
When her collection was discovered less than 15 years ago, the world came to know her amazing gaze. Not that I think so much of myself, but since I only heard about her last year, it’s comforting to believe that I’ve been following her footsteps. Unknowingly.
Isn’t that something?