As part of an ongoing series of assignments from Penny de los Santos, last week I had to compose a self-portrait. Among the rules: It had to express something about me. I had to push the shutter (no help from anyone else). It needed to something conceptualized and composed, not just a straight photo. It had to tell a story. She finished the list of rules with “Take a breath and just try…leap.”
So I thought about what scene might capture some essence of me. How often do we wonder about that? What scene could I place myself into that would tell a story, one that, at least to me, conveyed something essential?
I settled on a scene of me roasting a chicken and drinking a glass of wine as I cooked, my trusty chef’s knife on the cutting board at the ready. I think the exposure’s a bit off (that chicken looks a bit radioactive) and I had to crop it to avoid showing off the laundry on the table in the background, but I’m OK with it.
There’s something strange and curious to the experience of setting up a camera with the sole purpose of shooting a photo of yourself. Not a beautiful plate, not another person, not a landscape. It’s a weird kind of self interaction. It made me feel both deeply self conscious and vunerable, yet also a bit liberated. I recommend giving it a try.