Thursday, March 23, 2017

Elevate Your Selfies Into Self-Portraits

(Click on Photos for better viewing)

A phenomenon of the Social-Networking Age we live in, "Selfies" have become as common place as ID photos in the albums of our digital lives. Most people use it to show the places they have been to, the memorable events they have participated in or the times they spent with friends or loved ones, but a big number of people (particularly women) use it more as mirrors to take snaps shots of their faces or bodies (maybe to see how other people see them), to assess their physical appearance-- as personal data to be used either as negative evidence (to determine what can be improved upon) or positive feedback (to proudly display what they have and others do not). Psychologists have been alarmed by this growing "Selfie" trend, which they have diagnosed to be symptoms indicating Narcissistic Disorder.

The "Self-Portrait" is a time honored artistic endeavor practiced by most Western Painters and Photographers for centuries. Rembrant and Van Gogh, as well as Avedon and Cartier-Bresson often used themselves as subjects for their own work. Like them, I believe in using my image as an element in my photos, drawings, paintings and maybe even in my films (in the future). Like them, my Art flows from my sense of Self-- my history, my experiences, my perspective, my psyche, my thoughts, my spirituality-- in other words, my soul!

The Buddha says, "that the Self is an illusion... Life itself is an illusion!" Since wholly I agree with this premise and believe that our sense of "Self" is a reflection of our mind, "Self-Portraits" for me are visual reminders of my very existence, my physical presence. I think most artists, particularly the more sensitive and philosophical ones, are perpetually aware of the impermanence of all life. It is this sense of impending doom that propels Creatives to value beauty and the majesty of life, and drives them to express themselves through Art. What is Art anyway but an individual's recreation (or reconfiguration) of one's personal experiences, one's perspective of life/reality-- our ultimate validation of our own existence.

Painting or photographing ourselves keeps us in touch with our core... our Selves... the Being that consciously contemplates life and living. Sometimes we have to see ourselves from the outside to understand what is happening inside (our minds). "Self-Portraiture" for me, is a form of meditation or self-reflection/contemplation that can make us understand ourselves better, both in form and in substance. It is narcissistic in a way, but it can be profound if it ventures beyond the physical into the psychological.

"Selfies" are actually just a level away from becoming serious "Self-Portraits." The only difference I can see between the two is "artistic intent." "Selfies" are mostly snap-shots taken without much thought. "Center yourself (or at least see some part of yourself), then shoot" is the only instruction anyone has to follow. "Self-Portraits" are more deliberate. Framing, Focus and light (or the lack thereof) must be considered before the shot is taken, resulting in a more contemplated and conceptual photograph.

Our cellphones have made it easier for us to take "Self-Portraits" anywhere, anytime. Photographers from the past used to take pictures of themselves with wieldy cameras and bulky lights. With the wonderful photo-technology we have on our mobile phones nowadays, we can capture beautiful high resolution images in any lighting condition, with the aid of digital filters and digital processing Apps.

To take self-portraits with non-cellular cameras, a tripod must be employed because they are more wieldy, and the images must still be processed separately either on a computer or a darkroom. I still love using my real cameras for higher resolution or professional work, but I find my current iPhone sufficient for capturing "Self-Portraits," because it is ergonomically easier to shoot myself with it and I carry my phone with me all the time.

There are two ways to capture your own image. One is directly, by pointing the camera at yourself (easily done handheld with a cellphone, but a tripod must be used for a regular camera). Asking someone else to shoot you does not count, since it technically disqualifies it from becoming an actual self-portrait. The second way of capturing your own image is by shooting your reflection on a shiny surface. This method is more indirect and your reflection is inverted, but is just as effective.

I find the second option more to my taste, since it is expedient and offers more possibilities. From my photos here, you will notice that the only other condition I follow is that my camera remain as invisible in the photo as possible. I work with whatever is existing in the environment I am in, without manipulating any of the objects within frame, nor any of the lights that are already illuminating the scene.

You can do anything you want... really!!!! Get creative. Let your imagination dictate your photo.

I work within those arbitrary conditions I mentioned above by choice, to challenge myself a little, since I already do Still-Life, Product and Portrait photography professionally,  where I constantly manipulate all those variables readily. Shooting from the hip, at this point, is more fun for me.

Make your "Selfies" count. Instead of just unconsciously doing it to record a memory or an image of you, challenge yourself and push your photographic skills a little. Create a photographic statement with your "inner-self"-- a unique work of art that captures your personality. Start collecting "Self-Portraits" as a visual diary and existential validation of your time here on Earth!


--All the Photos were shot with the iPhone and are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia          

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