Monday, January 30, 2006

Self-Portrait of a Lady

Sometimes, in the course of making art, there is room for collaboration. Other times, the statement is a more personal, more private thing, a seed of an idea that cannot germinate in a communal garden. I feel this way about my own photographed image. Other people can, and have, taken pictures of me that I enjoyed. Almost none of them show me as I see myself. When I took up photography as a hobby, I did so because it was the medium in which I could document what I saw, as I saw it through my own eye, without the burden of trying to make my hand translate the image onto a piece of paper or a lump of clay. I loved photography from the start, and for the most part it loved me right back.

Our only issue, photography and I, is with how I appear in photographs taken by other people. My eyes glow red in the light of the flash, one side of my mouth turns up in a funny way, my chin disappears. I am ordinary, even goofy. I am betrayed by the other side of the lens. Is that really how I look? Am I really that awkward, that plain? Why do pictures of me never look like the image I see in the mirror? Is the mirror-image the lie that I tell myself, and the photograph the glaring, awful truth?

In a word, no. In a narcissistic but positive turn, I've discovered that my image can be captured as I'd like to see it, as I see myself, but only by my favorite living photographer. Me.

This is Svetlana, a triangular garter-stitch shawl knit in Crystal Palace 'Splash'. I knit her on size 17 needles, and used a little more than a ball and a quarter of 'Splash'. Svetlana was originally much bigger, but after her inadvertant unravelling, frogging and re-knit, she's now just large enough to wear around the shoulders, and only when fastened at the front with a pin, or in this case a faux pearl bracelet. I wanted her to be a little more elegant, a little less pelt-like.

I took the above picture myself, using a makeshift stand consisting of a laundry drying rack and a spiral-bound notebook. I'd flip the picture on the right upright if I had more time and more motivation, but you get the idea. It was tall enough for my purposes, and relatively stable. The funny thing about all of this is that I was explaining my contraption to my husband, and he said, "We have three tripods in the closet. Of COURSE they fit this camera. It was the old camera that didn't have a tripod mount." He looked a little sick when I showed him this picture. I think he was picturing his very expensive camera sliding off of the rig I'd invented and cracking into a hundred pieces on the hearth.

And sometimes it's not bad to look a little goofy in a picture, as long as the goofiness is on your own terms. Of all of the shots I took that day, this one is my favorite. Lucy caught me with her tongue about three milliseconds after the shutter click.

1 comment:

Nadira said...

I've had the same issue with photos. My theory is that when other people take your picture, they snap one or two. When you take your own, you take as many as you need to. Plus, you know what you think you look like, and can select for that. Other people don't.