Long ago, artists sketched, painted, themselves. Was it ego that had them wanting a likeness of themselves for the world to see. Or was it that they thought they were the best at capturing in their own style, who they were. A writer’s autobiography leads you into their lives, the parts they want to be remembered for. Some bare all, some just a inkling but it is the thought behind it that is important. They/we want you to have an understanding of who we are and what makes us tick. Art in any form is self expression.
I don’t know why I like being on both sides of the lens. Maybe because I don’t really like the way I look when other people candidly snap a picture… mouth gaping in midsentence, eyes half closed or some sort of strange expression on my face. Maybe it’s because I want to be seen as I see myself, how I am. To delve into me, rather than a mere surface glimpse. I’m an artist. I like the form of visual expression. Maybe I just like control over the piece of me that I am willing to expose. I’m a contradiction, being a gemini. I’m very private in some ways and open in others. I also think that no one else understands me as much as I do and few people have the ability or maybe it’s the patience to draw that out. Maybe it’s because I work for free as both muse and artist and am always available when a creative whim happens. Perhaps, I want you to wonder what was I thinking or feeling at the moment. I want to connect to others.
Art or ego? I think with the advent of camera phones and the barrage of self portraits put up on social networks, one could consider ego as the reason… But it’s still a longing to connect. And I do think that’s liberating in a way.
I grew up in a time or household where self expression was not entirely encouraged. Then the 60’s/70’s happened and my thought process was altered a little (no, not by drugs) by the social changes that were boiling over. Radical thoughts became the norm. Expressing oneself openly was totally acceptable, and I even hugged my parents in public. But deep down, revealing myself was difficult – never let them see you sweat. It is much easier for me to expose myself to myself as an actor sometimes does through the character they are portraying. A good actor draws from inside and breathes life into their role and they are transformed. As a photographer, that’s what I try to do even when I am shooting someone else. And it works when a model allows you in, when they get it. It clicks.
Emotions, we all have them, whether we choice to show them or hide them, that is our prerogative But it is our feelings that connect us to others and that which makes us human.
I think ego comes into play when you only wish to expose the beauty on the surface (nothing wrong with that, mind you). Nearly all of us seek to be beautiful and portrayed that way. Just look at all the $$$$$$ that is spent for plastic surgery and cosmetics… age defying lotions. We all want to be stave off the aging process for as long as we can, but let’s remember where true beauty comes from…
I once came across a most beautiful woman and couldn’t help but tell her so. She said, Oh thank you, I had nothing to do with it, my parents were responsible for that. And I thought… hmmmmm, she is so right – physical beauty has nothing to do with you unless that quality also comes from the inside.
Self portraiture is nothing new, many others before me did the same. Cindy Sherman was not the first, she followed in the footsteps of Claude Cahun and there are so many other women that although less noted, are very adept as muse and artist. As a woman, I can understand wanting to dress up, even pretend to be someone we are not. There are men out there that are quirky enough to attempt this and Bob Carey comes to mind. We went to a presentation of his at NYC PhotoSalon in March where we got a glimpse into his art and mind. Over the years, he dressed himself in a pink tutu and captured his image in various scenarios. Quite entertaining with some very ambitious stagings.
All the world’s a stage…
Mary Durante Youtt