The Art Of Self

Creating content is always a never-ending challenge of trying to one-up yourself. You know, those moments when there are just about t...

Creating content is always a never-ending challenge of trying to one-up yourself. You know, those moments when there are just about ten versions of a Photoshop file; when you save the finalfinalfinalFINAL.jpg before noticing a mistake you'd missed earlier; being slightly dissatisfied upon looking back at old work because suddenly everything seems substandard. While the process seems exhausting, and even frustrating at times (check: muttering made-up curse words under my breath), the final product usually negates the negative emotions invested earlier on. The beauty of creating a story, video, or set of visuals pays off in a way that you leave a better artist than you were before you started.
In a bid to push the creative boundaries of this site and my abilities, I decided to embark on the treacherous task of self-portraiture. Taking self-portraits is something I have consistently shied away from at all costs. The idea of having to ensure the appropriate camera angle and focus before half-sprinting to fall into pose, then trying to pull off a glamorously nonchalant expression while masking the fact that you're still trying to catch your breath, already sounds like a chore.
As intimidating as it may seem, I came to a realisation that this, as with most  challenges in any craft, was a way to explore and possibly grow. Sure, having someone else stand behind the lens seems like the most appropriate way to go. It's a surefire method to guarantee satisfactory photos while handing over the creative responsibility to anyone other than myself. The disappointment of a mediocre photo would easily, albeit unfairly, be conveyed to the photographer, a situation which I desperately try to avoid.

On the flipside, the beauty of self-portraiture lies in the fact that one has total creative control from beginning to end. You have complete jurisdiction from planning to post-processing, and everything in between. If something goes awry, the freedom to fix it however way lies in your hands. And, not surprisingly, coming up with poses seems a lot easier because there's no one to judge you. You're free to experiment without potentially jeopardising the plan because there was no plan at all in the first place.  If something goes awry, the freedom to fix it however way lies in your hands. 

Despite the autonomy on the creative direction of this series, which I might add is a strange feeling I'm still getting used to, there are its downsides as well. As much as total control over something can sound attractive, it's also equally ambitious. With no partner-in-crime beside you, there's no second opinion as to whether the final product looks reasonably acceptable for the general public. And to bear this judgement alone is asking a great deal -- if you've spent nearly two weeks working on a series, an outsider's judgement is the most impossible thing to derive from oneself.

More importantly, standing in front of the lens without second-party direction gives rise to a rather peculiar feeling. At once, you forget how to use your limbs. They feel out of place, and putting them at your sides seems a little too orchestrated. Your mind starts to wonder if you look like a clown - but you don't know until you jog back to look at the camera and realise half of your body was out of the frame. The level of self-consciousness throughout this experience is one that's foreign, for the most part. Facial muscles feel strained even though I was going for a detached expression; what are muscles and how do I relax them?! Similarly, the hand-underneath-chin pose, one that most people do unknowingly everyday, feels outlandish in motion, almost like I'm trying to be someone I'm not.

In a similar vein, how often are we conscious of our everyday movements? Menial tasks like brushing my teeth while groggily tugging at my unkempt bed hair is literally a habitual routine after 21 years of living. Yet, it is more muscle memory than conscious movement. Mindfulness is a trait, or a skill by now, that both religious and secular teachers alike love to preach about. And in this day and age of social media, technology, video games, et cetera et cetera (I'm beginning to sound like a parent, aren't I?), it's imperative to take a step back and be in the present. As cliché as it may appear, the importance of now can be rediscovered by doing routine tasks with some mindful effort.  The execution of this series has reignited in me the importance in living in the moment, while at the same time encouraging self-growth as a photographer, or so I hope. And in this sense, I've managed to cover the figurative and literal sense of inching closer to perfecting The Art of Self.

While self-portraiture could possible be my new thing, that's not to say I'm effectively abstaining from being exclusively in front of or behind the lens. Creative direction, photography, and modelling are various facets of visual production in which I hope to be heavily invested in over time. My leap into self-portraiture is simply a new extension of my creative ambitions as I look to create an aesthetic that I can label as distinctively mine.