Self-portraiture has proven to be a useful tool in my growth, not only as a photographer, but in my personal life as well. I am not talking about selfies, though I do have some selfies that I love. These images are portraits using my DSLR, a tripod, a remote shutter release, light meter and purposeful composition. I conceptualize a shot, set it up, run into the frame and using the remote shutter release, give myself the same directives I would give to other subjects. After several shots I go back to the camera to see what needs to change technically and aesthetically and repeat the process. As a result I learned how to better communicate my directives to my subjects by becoming more specific and more easily understood.
My first experience with this process was in workshop on self-portraiture by Kate Inglis. I signed up as a way to gain a greater understanding of the people I photograph. Our assignment was to capture ourselves where we are in this moment our personal journey. Where was I? Newly widowed, grief stricken, lost… The image I had conceptualized was the stripping away – the stripping of my walls, of grief, of fake strength and finally surrendering to tears.
At first it was uncomfortable and awkward. I did not enjoy the process. Sadly, I hated my images and didn’t want to share them with the other participants. I was so critical of my body that I couldn’t see the artistic beauty of the shot. The self-deprecating internal dialogue spewed forth. My perception of my body quickly expanded while my confidence withered until it occurred to me that I would never view that same image of another woman and compare her to the Michelin Man or the Staypuft Marshmallow Man. For the first time I afforded myself the same gentleness and grace that I gave others. I chose an image that I could see as beautiful and I decided to share it at the end of the workshop.
Using monthly self-portraits I documented my emotions, thoughts, feelings and growth. These images reflect periods of grief, depression, anger, acceptance and strength. While I still take self-portraits, the changes are now more subtle. I didn’t think I wanted to document this process but am glad that I did.
The images are powerful reminders of the restoration process of becoming ME again. Though I was initially resistant, the process was everything I didn’t know I needed. I am eager to see what insight future sessions will hold.
About the Author: Julie Terrill
Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.
Connect with her at: JMTerrillImages.com