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  1. #1
    Stephanie Brim's Avatar
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    Taking a road you've never traveled.

    I've been thinking about this photography project I'm going to embark on for days. As projects go, it's incredibly personal. I haven't really done anything this serious before, but everything that has happened in the past few weeks leads me to believe that I'm on the right path.

    First I suddenly get a bug up my arse to dig all my old camera equipment back out. I clean up the Mamiya C3, planning to use only that for a while, then decide to clean up my large format stuff, too. Clean up the lenses, fix the shutter on the Speed Graphic, source a new back (from Vaughn), get the reducing back for the Burke & James, and acquire much needed 4x5 film holders. Then I go looking for an enlarger. I come up empty until I call a camera store I'd never heard of on a whim. A customer has an enlarger for me that can do the largest film I have. And then, to top it all off, I score an Epson V750 on Ebay for a song two nights ago. No more stitching things together if I need to scan a negative for any reason. It's overkill since the only reason I'd scan film right now is because I'm too impatient to wait to show off a print, but I'm not going to complain.

    All this is leading up to this project. This thing is not really something I want to do. I'm basically going to put to film the issues I have with my body and my mind from the last, oh, twenty years or so. It'll be a photographic journey through bullying, body image, and mental health. Basically, I'll be chronicling the things that made me who I am today.

    The hardest part, I think, will be taking photos of myself. I'm always *behind* the camera. I don't really do photos *of* me. I have none in my house. I have no plans to have them in the traditional 'family portrait' sense as of right now. I'm ashamed of various aspects of myself and I want these images to reflect and maybe shed a different light on the things that I despise about myself. In order to do that, it has to be me in the photos. It's harder than I thought it would be.

    Anyway, has anyone else gone down a less-than-comfortable path with photography? Can you point me to examples of photographers that have done things like this in the past?

    I'm going to go lug the Tiltall downstairs with the Burke & James on it to see if the lens I have right now will work with the shot I have in mind in the first place.
    Last edited by Stephanie Brim; 11-03-2012 at 08:44 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    No idea what's going to happen next, but I'm hoping it involves being wrist deep in chemicals come the weekend.

  2. #2
    wildbill's Avatar
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    anything you do photographically outside your normal subject matter will make you a better photographer. that's what I have found.
    www.vinnywalsh.com

    I know what I want but I just don't know how to go about gettin' it.-Hendrix

  3. #3
    Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    I've done a few self portraits. I found that a long shutter release is good, and years ago I bought a little clockwork self-timer. The best thing is an air release, i.e., bulb and piston type.

  4. #4

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    I *rarely* let myself be photographed. Recently my wife and I were given a portrait session with a pro photographer as an anniversary gift, and I was very uncomfortable in front of the camera. I got through it okay, but the best shots are the ones where I am *not* looking at the camera (IMHO). See, I have eye problems that make it hard for me to look in the same direction with both eyes, and I'm a bit self-conscious about it.

    Periodically I take a self-portrait... usually these are full-length shots taken of interesting reflections that happen to include me. But there was once a difficult year when I was simultaneously 1) finishing my bachelor's degree and 2) getting divorced. During that time I did a series of studio self-portrait head-shots using my 4x5 Calumet. So they're very detailed shots, you can see every bit of stubble on my face. I used high-key lighting, with the main light from one side, and when I look at them now, I can really see what kind of shape I was in. I wasn't eating, I was smoking (!) which i don't do now, my cheeks look sunken... I generally weighed around 130 pounds when I was in my twenties, but I got down to 110 during the worst of it... I showed these photos in my portfolio class that last semester and the other students were amazed by them, including one comment about a particular shot, that looked like I had captured myself in the moment of death. I don't have these scanned and I have a hard time showing them now but it was really worth doing, as it did indeed help me through what was a very tough experience.

  5. #5
    eddie's Avatar
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    Stephanie- I think you're taking on a lot, not that it's necessarily a bad thing. You said, " This thing is not really something I want to do." If the images are secondary to any epiphanies/ closures/etc., the project may bring, I think it's worth pursuing. If the images are the primary reason, I wonder if not wanting to do it could hinder the project, as well as its completion. I do admire even contemplating such a project, though.

  6. #6

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    Any photo documentary project I undertook, grabbed me from my comfort zone and threw me in the thick of uncomfortable and confronting. They are also my best bodies of work. I think what you will gain from this should take precedence over an emotion. Aside from the photographic aspect of everything, I went from being a very passive, non-confrontational, individual who had a tough time dealing with stress in my early 20s and I took a huge chance in my life and quit my fulltime job landscaping to volunteer fulltime in a homeless shelter. First day of work I got a cup of hot water thrown in my face while being called a "little bitch" and had my life threatened. I nearly left and quit right then, but I told myself that I was going to keep going, despite the stress and hardships for a greater cause. I ended up landing a job in the field for the next 6 years and took a chance at a different career that also through me into an extremely challenging and uncomfortable line of work. I find that the more I just "push on through", the stronger, smarter and more resilient I become. I think you will find that this will help you in many aspects of your personal and photographic life.

    "phil and me" is a body of work from a photographer in Montreal who photographed her homeless, schizophrenic, alcoholic father. I imagine it was a very heart-wrenching time for her to confront those realities and ontop of that, showing it to the public must have been a tough decision. I'm sure there's a million examples out there.

  7. #7
    hdeyong's Avatar
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    I admire your courage, do what you gotta do. Need to and want to are 2 different things.

  8. #8
    sly
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    Bravo Stephanie!

    The messages the North America culture feeds girls and young women poisons so many of us for life. We are robbed of the ability to enjoy living in our bodies. My work with women of all shapes and sizes is a daily reminder that ALL women are amazing. You are too. I admire you courage in taking this on. Hope those near and dear to you support your project whole-heartedly.

  9. #9
    Slixtiesix's Avatar
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    I'm ashamed of various aspects of myself and I want these images to reflect and maybe shed a different light on the things that I despise about myself.
    I don´t know how you like like but from personal experience I know that most people tend to overestimate minor "flaws" that other people won´t even notice like scars, little asymmetries, proportions of whatever... I also know some really pretty girls that think themselves ugly out of reasons I can´t comprehend. And I really think that no one, absolutely no one can judge his/her outer appearance by him/herself. Only others can do this. Not only because a common proverb says that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but because self-perception has to do something with your inside, while others can only see the surface.
    Last edited by Slixtiesix; 11-04-2012 at 04:29 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  10. #10
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    I find it exceedingly difficult to get self-portraits that reveal myself as I see myself. My boss asked me for a photo for the company roster, so I provided one which I know I went to a bit of effort to make a couple years ago, yellow background and all... Lousy stilted shot. I guess I'm going to need to get back onto this project too...

    My avatar is pretty close, it's a crop from a group shot... me and two best friends at a weekend together. I look happy because... well... when hanging out with best friends... that's a good time for pictures.

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