On Self-Portraits / by Amanda Liew

Our Digital Photography course has moved along to portraiture which has been...very interesting. We have 4 categories: Strangers, Intimacy (Friends/Family), Self-Portrait, and Choice. I've found self-portraits and strangers particularly difficult to shoot, but it's definitely a learning experience! On one hand, there's instant embarrassment. I'm essentially taking glorified selfies! Except it's way harder with a DSLR... I had to play around with timers, shooting with my hand on the trigger, and being able to frame myself without being able to look through the view finder! At the same time, there's the question of "What do I want to convey?" Of course, my first instinct is to shoot photos where I like how I look! Our professor asked us to think about what we wanted to show a viewer. Certain artists like Cindy Sherman and Nikki S. Lee take on characters for their self portraits - does that still count? Does the photo have to be an accurate representation of who you are and what you look like? What if it represents how you view yourself? There are so many different things to question and debate! We've also been talking about naming photographs and how that affects a viewer's interpretation. I think personally that I prefer to have my words/photos/etc. interpreted the way I originally intended. I mean, I have a blog to explain my photos! But maybe for this post, I'll put my captions and explanations below my photos. For my first photo in particular, I'm curious as to how people will interpret it without my explanation! I've made my explanation in white font, so just highlight over it to read my own take! _DSC0080_blog

Highlight over the paragraph to read my explanation:

This first photo is inspired by my own coming to terms with my Asian identity. I thought it would be interesting to borrow a blonde wig from my friend Cameron and try to capture the inside turmoil of "trying to be White." When I was little, I defined beauty as blonde hair and blue eyes. I thought this would be an interesting opportunity to test that theory out. I wish I had more props - I would have loved to get some pictures of myself putting in blue contacts or putting on a much paler shade of makeup. So many options! This was also one of the first photos that I started using photoshop on. My face was much darker than the rest of the photo because of the wig, and I was able to use the Dodge tool to expose just my face - very cool!


I love this photo because I think it captures my laugh perfectly! I really wish I had a dainty laugh, but instead I throw my head back, laugh with a HUGE open smile, make one HAHA and then silently laugh the rest of the way through. It's utterly embarrassing and unattractive, but hey - it's how I laugh!


Finally I wanted to play around with gaze. It's really interesting how the subject's gaze can change the entire feel of the photo. In this photo, I wanted my gaze to go straight through to the viewer. The natural lighting from the window also casts some shadows which adds to this level of emotion that I don't think would be there otherwise.

At the end of it all, I'm going through hundreds of photos of myself on Bridge and still can't take myself seriously. I burst out laughing at some of the more ridiculous faces/emotions I try on, and I'm almost embarrassed for myself. But alas, I guess these are the emotions that come with self-portraits!

Any thoughts?