Photography: Self Portraits January 2019

First published on Context and Narrative, January 2019.

I’ve had a really bad cold. Today has been the first day I’ve felt anything like normal for a whole week and so I thought I’d get my digital camera out and take some instruction shots for my next film development post. I quickly realised that what I was trying to communicate doesn’t  really work on a flat lay, and I think I’d rather film it anyway!

As I had everything out and the camera set up on an actual tripod (a bit unusual for me), I decided to play with some ideas I’d been having to see if I could develop them a bit – just to try things out with no pressure on myself to get anything right.

Using my iPhone to control my camera, the Fuji XT2, I initially worked with it set to it’s standard colour, then I changed to monochrome and immediately felt much happier with the shots I was producing.

I preferred the monochrome shots because there were too many colours going on; those in the shirt, my hair, my make up, the wallpaper. It was all too much.


Like most photographers, I feel really uncomfortable in front of the camera. I’ve taken quite a lot of self portraits over the past year, mainly because my boys are at an age where they don’t want to pose for me and so I have become my only constantly available option, but it doesn’t get any easier.

I’ve been doing a lot of my visual thinking work in my sketchbook since I started Context and Narrative; I used to find myself sharing everything on Instagram, but I suppose I’ve been very quiet on social media lately. I really need time to experiment without fear of judgement, and a place where I can try out images that my children’s friends won’t see come up in their Instagram feed!

On this course there is a course requirement to keep a journal for a few weeks and I’m doing that in my sketchbook too. I find that I want a fuller record for myself of what I’ve been looking at and thinking. By doing this on paper I can already see connections that I can’t see with a purely online record. Plus having a physical record every day is really helping me to experiment with ideas.

I was writing a journal entry in my sketchbook the other day and I remembered a photograph of myself as a child that I wanted to include. It feels like a really honest image of me, one where I’m too young to be forced to pretend to be someone else and I am being totally myself.


So I think I was inspired by that idea at first, of really trying to find an honest version of me today. I realise that I can’t do it looking at the camera. I just can’t seem to relax and I end up pulling all sorts of awkward looking faces and that’s why I just relaxed and looked at the phone.

True me?

I think I’ve been successful like this. These are honest; they’re honest about an aspect of me, about who I am and what I’m like.

Next I wanted to play with getting some movement. This is where this pattern shirt works well; it isn’t something I wear a lot, but I thought the pattern would be interesting in the context and it was.



Then I decided to grab my purple mermaid wig and play at being someone else.

This is all initial work for my assignments on this course. As usual, I am playing with various ideas and finding one that I really want to use. I feel a bit freer than usual to not necessarily do these in order; I am finding myself working on all of the assignments at once, certainly in terms of initial ideas and experiments. I think that way the whole body of work I give in will be more coherent and I would really like that.

Playing at being someone else

I think it’s interesting that the shirt, to me at least, reads differently here. I knew the purple wig would probably read as light brown or blonde as I’ve used it before, but the character of the shirt feels different.


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