Thursday, January 21, 2010

Days 122-124: Overexposure

Remember when it used to be a novel thing that people would post extensive, revealing photographs of themselves or webcam videos on the Internet--like that girl who pretended to be a homeschooler, but was really an actress? I'm completely enchanted with Noah Kalina and Jonathan Keller who have both been taking daily headshots of themselves for years and years.

What a weird thing it is, to take pictures of one's self. I never gave it much thought until this project. Van Gogh's self portraits bothered me (He painted something like 36 of them). I felt sad that he saw such torment in his own face, and was brave enough to represent it on canvas. The impressionistic techniques can only have enhanced the brutal effects.

I love how intense and real these self-portraits are:

Albrecht Durer

Gustave Courbet
(Okay, he's a bit of a drama queen here.)

 Van Gogh

Paula Modersohn-Becker

People who have professional photographs taken of themselves--writers, politicians, businesspeople, celebutards, actors, brides--they aren't necessarily looking for reality. They want their best selves, not their everyday selves on display.

Photography is such an instant experience now. The digital camera sees every damn thing--if the lighting is right, which for me, rarely happens--and one can't hide a bad hair day, pimple or nose bump. There's always Photoshop for the perfectionist or the artist.

Regular readers will recognize writer Michelle Brooks's comments as coming by way of Michelle's Spell. With every wonderful blog post Michelle puts up, she includes a photograph of herself. They are usually posed, but delightfully honest and fun and unabashedly sexy (the girl can't help it!). She just doesn't have a bad picture day.  When I first started reading her blog, I was blown away not just by her writing (she posts poetry, non-fiction, fiction snippets), but by how brave she was to have all those photos of herself out there for everyone to see.

I read an interesting article somewhere online that talks about self-consciousness in photos--particularly in photos of children. Oldest children are usually the most self-conscious, their smiles often "fakey." They try to smile in a pleasing way, but they're not really into it. Some children start out this way from birth--others pick it up when they're seven or eight. I used to give Pom a terribly hard time about it--but of course that only makes it worse. And so the child has to unlearn it as an adult.

My particular weakness is vanity. I hate having pictures up that I don't like. It's as though I imagine I'll be in some political campaign someday or will have some crime committed upon me and the only picture someone will find is of me with one eye half-closed, or wearing a really ugly bathrobe from you-know-where. (Don't bother to look--you won't find one unless you took it one morning when I was out with the dogs. In which case, you're stalking me, so, go away!)

As you can see by the vast array of dopey, poorly photographed shots I have lying around here, I think I'm almost over all that now. (Still no bathrobe, though!)

Day 122:

I had to look at the date. We were near the end of a long work week. P was gone and I was single-parenting. You can tell by my shell-shocked look.

RL sweater (Sam's): $21, Miley Cyrus cami: $7: Earrings: $7; Faded Glory Jeans: $15  Total: $50

Day 123:

Here I am. Hard at work--bad hair and very little make-up. I really hate how flat my hair gets in the winter. Is yours that way?

George turtle: $10; Miley/Max Azria vest: $14; Norma Kamali cords: $15; Earrings: $69 (Sam's); Necklace: $8  Total: $116

Day 124:

Out with the dogs, Sat. a.m.

Misc. Wal-Mart and Sam's stuff: about $60, plus my cute red rubber boots: $25

Must run. I'm off to meet with a book club which just read ISABELLA MOON!


  1. Hi beautiful,
    Thanks so much for the shout-out! It made my entire day!!!!!!!!!!! I have gotten the most praise and the most criticism from the picture element of my blog which in itself is truly fascinating to me and a sign that something about it works. I think of it as sort of like seeing a television weathergirl every day -- comforting and reliable. Also, I want people to know what a real woman looks like -- not the photoshopped to death reality that makes everyone feel bad. Plus, I love to be in weird or interesting spots and trying to create a strange art out of it. And posting pictures makes you develop a tough skin which I needed when I started the project so I guess sometimes we seek to do the thing needed for our own good. (This would be rare in my case. :) In relation to your post about pictures, I think the issues are ones of control. I know someone who cuts herself out of almost every picture because she's so critical, leaving the family photo album, well, interesting to say the least. I love the ones of you that you've posted (even the ones here which you deem "bad" and are not!). My favorite picture in the world is of a man in front of a theater marquee showing The Exorcist. He has a huge knife scar on his face and it's twilight and he looks kind of lost and yet firmly entrenched in time. I bought it from my friend Keith, and I never grow tired of looking at it.

  2. The realism of your photos is what makes them so special--besides your pretty face, of course.

    I want to know the woman who cuts herself out of every picture. Have you written a poem about her yet? I'd love to put her in a story....

  3. Michelle, I've checked out your blog now and Laura's right - the photos of you are filled with personality - you seem very photogenic, besides. Laura, you have me taking random photos of myself with my cell phone, now, just to see what I look like. It's an interesting project. Not ready to share, though.

    I've been sorting through boxes of old photos, and it strikes me that, with photos of my kids, they look completely different based on who the photographer was (my, grandpa 1, grandpa 2, school photographer). There is a very elusive quality in portraiture I'd love to explore more - one of these days.