Stars Behind My Back

Sometimes I feel as if I am 17 again. Cod, the insecurity. The worry. The heat. No, this is not a cross-posted private rambling on my mental well-being (mad – obviously), I am referring to the faltering self-confidence that I get hit with every once in a while. It gripped me last week when after a longish absence at long last I had a studio shoot on again. And I wondered, whether I still knew how to use the studio lights.

Silly really – you don’t lose a skill like that in a matter of weeks. But in any case, I had to test the set-up and the lights before I could go ahead with my model. The order of the day was going to be a nude shoot. And in the absence of willing guinea-pigs, I had to put myself in the picture. NO! Don’t worry. Neither did I shoot myself in the nip, nor did I photograph naked. I am merely saying that I had to pose for myself to play with some effects that I was hoping to employ.

Even on the technical level, it is challenging to photograph oneself. And I am beginning to wonder whether all those famous photographers’ self-portraits were actually executed with assitance? (For my top 5 favourite photographic self-portraits of all time check here: Marianne Breslauer, Ilse Bing, Helmut Newton, Robert Mapplethorpe, Man Ray) I mean – save taking a picture of yourself in the mirror while you are looking through the viewfinder – how do you actually get the focus on yourself when you are IN the picture? Just the smallest aperture and then general guesswork? Autofocus while remote releasing? I sort of guessed the focus, set the camera on manual and then shot myself time-delayed. Surprisingly the result is presentable – minus the soft focus, of course.

And is it any wonder that my self-portrait happens to be b/w? Not when you have looked at the famous self-portraits above. Granted, some of them were made before the advent of colour photography. But b/w is always my natural choice for a self-portrait. Subconsciously, I think, they alienate the viewer from the ‘viewed’. Because the standard nowadays is colour, the use of b/w implies a conscious decision on part of the photographer. It seems to distance the sitter from the viewer, making the portrait a deliberate ‘likeness’ – but not a ‘sameness’. It is clear that a b/w self-portrait is only just ONE interpretation of self – possibly one that leaves the less savoury bits in dark shadow while highlighting the good parts?

I did do some post-production – obviously the cropping of the image, plus I added a kind of “starry background” as a nod to a publicity photograph which I really love (click). Some stray hair had to be photoshopped out, but I left the rest of it in there. I guess I am a bit disshevelled in real life. The portrait was shot with rimlight, as I wanted to experiment if and how the light from behind would light up fair hair. Otherwise I used a flash that was set up at 45° to the left of me. I even managed to keep any reflection off my specs. 

So this is me. One Saturday afternoon in August 2012.


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