Self Portraiture as Medicine Feed


Gathering the snippets of brightly colored threads

the pieces of my life...


Feathers dancing

across pine needle

carpeted forest floors


Snuggling a pansy's roots

down into the deep rich soil

that gives it life


Scents of spring rain

and soup

simmering on the stove


Catching the night's sounds

through open bedroom windows

weaving them into a

dream catcher's web

to hang above me


Listening to winter stripped trees

whispering my stories

and asking for their voices to be heard


Grandmother wisdom

drawing close the

laughter and kisses

of those I love

building a nest in my soul.


Around the Learning Curve and Down the Rabbit Hole

Self portrati 2d

Self Portraiture as Medicine: Day 2

Yesterday, Catherine Just asked us to think of a relationship we're currently in, whether it's with ourselves or someone else, and then to explore it using mind mapping and journaling. We dove into thesauruses and dictionaries, identifying some key emotions. The assignment? Create a self portrait that illustrates the relationship and emotions involved.

For the past few weeks, I've done a great deal of thinking and writing about family and self, the expectations involved, the roles played, and the falling apart of family. So, mind mapping? Check! Journaling? Check!

Create the self portrait? Not so easy to make that check mark, and here's where I began to navigate a series of learning curves that would defy an experienced race car driver, and with each learning curve, I tumbled down the rabbit hole with Alice, a  disorienting, chaotic, and confusing trip for sure, uttering words not fit for polite company, and experimenting with permutations and combinations of photos and apps.

There's a whole lot going on in this self portrait - tunnels, eggshells, and me. I bounced among 3, 4, or more apps, and today's assignment brings more to come, only this time involving the mysteries of self timers, release cables, and more on my Canon DSLR.

Navigating family relationships involves walking on eggshells, and I have a completely different thought about how to portray my feelings here. It's much simpler in appearance, but I would have needed actual eggshells and have had to clean up one hell of a mess. I also need to learn all that business mentioned above with the Canon. So, for now, I'll tuck that idea away, start saving egg shells, and learn what I need to learn.

Right now, for different reasons, I feel like I'm moving through a tunnel at full speed but with lights bouncing in my eyes. I'm trying to stay in my own lane, as directed, but obviously not completely successfully. Yet, I see the green light, and green means go, baby, go. The more this family situation hangs over me, and it's all hung over me for years now, a decade even, it's time to move on it. Past time.

So, again, am I completely happy with the portrait? No, but simply because I still have that other idea in mind, and it needs to be explored. But, you know what? I do like it. It's completely different than what's in my head, but I like it. It tells my story, so, yes, I can make that check mark. Again, I'm not there yet, but I'm farther along than yesterday.

Just for grins and giggles, here are the photos that came together:


Self portrait 2a

plus this:

Self portrait 2b

equaled this:

Self portrait 2c

This is where most of the swearing occurred, learning to do some masking and erasing so that I didn't have a face full of egg shells! You can still see some rough edges here; they got cleaned up later. I did all of this using my iphone; I took the photos using my phone, and worked with various apps, the one here being Image Blender.

I then added this shot, from a recent trip through the Chesapeake Tunnel portion of the Bay/Bridge Tunnel:

Self portrait 2e

As I went back and forth, I kept fine tuning with Snapseed, Phototoaster, and Mextures. I still have an incredible amount to learn; these apps are such powerful little tools.

And, ta da, as my grands would say, I had a finished project.

Now, it's on to today's assignment, where I need to create a "virtual" world; I get to play dress up!

Oh, yeah, got some reading, studying, etc. to do. Time to go down another rabbit hole...



Self portrait day 1

I don't know how many times I went back and forth.

Yes, I will.

No, I won't.

Yes, I will.

And, at the 11th hour, with time and my chances rapidly disappearing into the the land of "I Wish I Had," I did it. I signed up, sent off the Pay Pal payment, and I wondered just what I was getting myself into.

I don't like selfies; I feel completely and utterly ridiculous taking them. Too much drumming into my mind during childhood that this sort of thing smacks of putting yourself first, above others. It's not at all humble.

I did it anyway. If I am going to figure out why I hate myself in photos so darn much, I had to do a bit of inner probing. Other than it going against the pounded into my head idea of humility, what else is going on here? I knew I needed a safe spot, somewhere where the words could accompany the photograph, and no one would judge, at least aloud.

You're looking at day 1's self portrait. Notice that it's a portrait, not a selfie, and that's key. I'm shooting with intent, not just recording a moment in time. I am going to be doing this for 10 days, with weekends off for good behavior! To be honest, the weekends serve as a bit of a rest, a catching up if needed.

I'm on a learning curve here, so be patient. "Self Portraiture as Medicine" is being led by the lovely and amazingly talented Catherine Just, a conceptual photographer based in Los Angeles. I began exploring conceptual photography, where the photo illustrates an idea, not such an easy thing to do sometimes, but I think that's why it fascinates me so much. Can I do this and do it somewhat well? I'm still not sure yet, but to quote a recent blog entry, "I'm not there yet, but I'm farther than I was yesterday."

I really am in an in between sort of place at the moment, letting go of certain people and things, certain expectations that I either can't meet or no longer wish to meet. Some sort of shift is happening, a really good one, I think. It's a bit exhausting and a bit frightening, but at the same time pretty darn exhilarating! I'm moving toward something good.

And, so this first day's portrait, a rather early morning one at that, and a result of letting go of expectations.

I meant to take advantage of the morning light, hoping for that beautiful soft diffused glow.

Instead, I got more of a harsh light, and boy, did I get shadows.

I almost quit right there; it didn't look promising having difficulty from the get go.

Unexpectedly, something clicked. I realized that my Iphone's shadow created a perfect mask; my camera is what I always hide behind, and when I can't be behind the camera, I do my very best at hiding in the photo somewhere, maybe a corner, maybe behind someone tall.

And, even though it masks me, you can still see my eyes. I'm beginning to look out at you, to meet your gaze, and most of all to look inside of me.

My mouth; kind of bizarre, isn't it? Yet, kinda pretty darn cool. For so very long, I've kept my mouth shut, following the rules and guidelines because that's what good girls do. I always did take pride in being the good girl.

I'm beginning to open it more and more, not just to spout off, but to say my piece when I think it's important. Not in an ugly way or an unkind way, but yes, I'll say it. Sometimes, no matter how carefully I try, i set off the beginnings of World War 3.  So, this bizarre half gone mouth fits in its own strange way.

I don't know that I "like" this portrait, but I know that it sings power of some sort. It tends to make me a bit uncomfortable; it's not the sort of photo that makes someone gasp in delight. That's okay; it's saying what I need it to say.

So, I'm diving in deep and taking a chance here; I'm completely on a learning curve. Some of these self portraits will work, some won't. I'm going to show them anyway. I've always thought that we need to share more of our "mistakes," that no matter the artist, the writer, the photographer, there will be mistakes. I really believe that our mistakes let others hope a bit; we're not quite so cowed anymore.

Bear with me; come along for the journey. I'll be leaving many details of the class blank; people paid for it, and I have no wish or right to give it away for free.

I hope we all learn something; I hope we all enjoy the ride.

And, I hope we're all closer today to where we want to be than we were yesterday.