showing up for yourself (why I take selfies)

 from my new #archivallexseries

I am the daughter of a painter. My mom has used my (half) sister and I as models since before I can remember (in fact, before we born, according to her). She draws/ paints fast, so it was never really a big deal to sit still for her and in fact, I don't actually remember formally sitting for her until I was a teenager. Art was just part of my life, growing up. My sister's dad (who I lived with for two years) is also an artist, and my sister naturally inherited both her parent's abilities. I did other things (choir and drama and creative writing) instead of art in school, so I couldn't draw very well, but I had a great sense of color and design. I've since done some drawing and some painting, but I really prefer photography, because it makes use of my natural abilities.

I think this growing up modeling for artists (who absolutely do change features and shapes to suit themselves) is part of why self-portraits have always appealed to me. I like seeing how I look through other people's artistic expression, but I also want to see how I look through my own eyes.

There are other layers, of course. I've always loved Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh's works (both are self-portraitists). I'm naturally fairly vain, being a performer. I like mirrors and I like looking at photos of myself. And digital cameras (especially WiFi devices and phones) make taking self-portraits super easy.

After motherhood threw me for a loop, I needed some way to reconnect to myself. Poetry helped. But photography was an easy way to be in the moment (and obviously, I liked taking photos of Remy as he grew). Getting better and better at photography (by practicing) was a great way to learn a new skill and express myself artistically.

And I always knew I wanted to be in the picture, because I treasure all the photos of my mom while I was growing up. Since M isn't the photographer in our family and since there was so much time during the day to capture when M was at work, I started taking photos of Remy and I together on my little point and shoot a few months after he was born. (Here's one of the first. Oh, hey red eye!* I had a lot to learn.)

I kept myself in the photos I took. I wanted my photos to be my legacy. I wanted future-Remy to be able to see me as I am now. But more, I wanted to see me. I wanted to show up for myself by being there, in my photos. I wanted to love myself, as I am.

And so I did.

As Remy grew, and my photography grew, I started taking photos of just me, too. I practiced. I kept practicing. I started (back) on my body-love journey.

And most importantly, I had fun!

So even before I did the #365lex project last year, I had a history of selfie-taking. I had a history of using photography to help myself accept love my body as it is. 

The 365 project was all of that practice, times twenty. Aside from taking one photo of myself every day (which means great days and bad days), it also upped my double exposure game by giving me a subject I could use every day.

This year's project is focused entirely on surrealism (double/ multiple exposure) and I notice I am still mostly using myself as the subject, but I am not requiring myself to. So, some days Remy or M are in there, too, either alone or in some combination. But I am still taking a photo of myself every day. It's second nature at this point.

I am showing up for myself. I am embracing myself, as I am. I am here, in this moment. And this is all good, even when the moment is hard.

Yesterday on Facebook, a friend (who I have known since high school) asked me what I learned after taking a photo of myself every day for a year. I didn't know exactly how to respond, except to point her to my posts about the project, and to encourage her to start, if she was thinking about it.

She took her first selfie that night.

And that? Made me so happy I could have burst.


* I don't use flash anymore. I learned a lesson from all those baby photos with red eye. (Ugh.) I also do not ever use the front facing camera on my phone. It's great for Skype, but the poor resolution and mirror imaging annoys me.

My current phone has a dedicated shutter button on the side (which also opens the camera, even when when the phone is sleeping).

On the iPhone, you can use the volume buttons to do the same thing (except they won't open the camera).

I also have a remote shutter for my dslr, which is a great tool for getting in the photo. If you don't have one, play with the timer - most cameras nowadays have one.