I am keen on the little bits that make up life, and I explore them with camera in hand. Certainly, there are the photographs of my growing children and the holidays and the vacations. But what intrigues me most are the pieces of all that…the pile of shoes left by the back door, the crushed candy cane spilled on the table, the afternoon light streaming through the window on our second-last day of vacation. That is what I want to capture.
And I find the search for the bits and pieces appear in my self-portrait work as well, quite literally at times. I might take a traditional shot of my face. But the shots I really love are the ones that capture pieces of me. Glimpses. Those are the shots that remind me what I was doing on a given day; those are the images that trigger memories of what I was feeling that day.
Like many of us, I am generally the person taking the photographs of everyone else. And that suits me just fine. Truthfully, the reason I turn the camera on myself is not so much so that I appear in an occasional family shot – although that’s nice. The reason I turn the camera on myself is because I want to remember. I want to remember me. I delight in making photographs of everything that shapes my life. But, even in the delight, there is the potential for getting lost. I do not want to be lost.
And so I turn the lens. It’s not every day, but I make an effort to position myself on the other side of the camera on a regular basis. It’s a practice I’m developing and, though I’ve been doing it a couple years, I am astounded each and every time by just how healing the experience is.
My shots reflect wherever I am on a given day. Sometimes they’re playful in nature; sometimes they’re restrained; rarely are they staged. But when I look back at each of them, I say to myself, Ah, yes. That. Me. Then. It’s powerful.
It’s not about a good hair day or showcasing a perfect life. Not at all. It’s about looking, with intention, at where I am in my life. Where am I standing in the midst of all my little bits? What am I feeling? What am I holding, literally or figuratively? How am I doing…for real?
Because I want to know what I’m doing and how I’m feeling, for real. I want to understand how I fit with the other pieces of my life. Self-portraiture allows me a process for exploring that, for celebrating that. It allows me a means to express what otherwise might get trapped inside. I want nothing trapped inside. I want to see and understand, as best I can, all the pieces of my life. I want to remember the shoes and the candy canes. I want to remember how the afternoon light fell through the window. And I want to remember how that light fell onto me.
Editor’s Note: *text previously published in Bella Grace, Issue 4, 2015
About the Author: Michelle GD
Michelle GD is an artist living in Virginia. Using writing and photography as forms of meditation, she explores the connections between the beautiful and messy bits of life. You can find her at MichelleGD.com.