Thursday, October 09, 2008

She Took Her Own Picture

I am a member of the Female Self-Portrait Artists' Support Group Group on Flickr. I had been following the work of many of the woman who contribute to the group for a while so I finally decided to join to share some of my own self-portraiture. Candidly, self-portraiture is not the focus of my work. After I left my corporate job last summer I had a lot of time to myself to reflect on my choices, where I've been, where I think I'm going...I started to take photos of myself that at the time I didn't think were particularly special but I found it to be therapeutic. I was going through major changes in my professional life and I was suddenly dipping in to a whole new world and discovering myself through self-portraits.

These images weren't meant to make a statement but I found myself really opening up in front of my lens rather than hiding behind it. As I started to post my images on Flickr I found that there wasn't really an honest place where I could share my self-portraits and get feedback other than "you're so hot" and "you're such a narcissist" so I was so happy when I found kindred spirits at the FSPASG. This is a wonderfully diverse group of women who express themselves through self-portraiture and I've really learned so much from them and about myself since I've joined the group.

Some of the members of the group have published a book, She Took Her Own Picture, via I've just ordered my copy and I am eagerly awaiting its arrival in my mailbox. I am very excited to share that I am participating in a second publication that will include over 100 self-portrait artists from the group, including those women who participated in the first volume.

I've copied the book's Introduction here because it perfectly expresses my thoughts regarding self-portraiture, the group on Flickr and my experiences on Flickr with respect to my self-portraits. I'm in the process of choosing images to publish in the book and also working on a new series. I haven't decided what I will contribute but I'll be publishing it here once I do.

From "She Took Her Own Picture"

There are approximately 3.3 billion women in the world, all of whom doubtlessly live a split existence: the person viewed by others, molded according to culture, and created for display to the rest of the world, and the true self, the woman who exists in, of, and for herself.

When Laurel Fiszer started posting her photos on a few years ago, she certainly did not imagine plunging into an existential debate. Instead, she noticed that female self-portrait photographers were often seen as narcissistic princesses who had to defend their work against an onslaught of criticism—most of which was not directed toward the photograph’s technical merits. When Laurel founded the Female Self Portrait Artists’ Support Group, her primary goal was to create a place online where female photographers could share self-portraits and receive constructive criticism in a supportive, encouraging, and non-judgmental environment. Since its founding, the Group has grown to include hundreds of women from all over the globe--all of whom share a passion for interpreting, inventing and reinventing themselves through pictures.

Despite this commonality, the artists come from different countries and cultures, demonstrate diverse worldviews in their photos, and have distinct artistic motivations. Members of the Group hail from Latin America, Europe, North America, Oceania, and the Caribbean. Some within the Group are professional photographers with an accomplished body of work; others only recently picked up a camera and are working out their own sense of focus, light, and composition. Moreover, not every artist is catapulted into self-portraiture for the same reason. Many do it for lack of other models. Other women appreciate the creative control that self-portraiture affords them, and some embark on a self-portrait series as a form of therapy, self-discovery, or self-empowerment. Still more women photograph themselves as a feminist statement; for them, self-portraiture is a way of removing themselves from a male-artist/female-object paradigm.

These cultural, geographic, and artistic differences do more than add to the diversity of the Group; they more importantly highlight the diversity and complexity of all women, not just photographers, and not just women with access to computers, internet connections, and digital cameras. The Group’s photographic campaigns about women’s issues, such as domestic abuse and mental health, highlight each photographer’s quest to portray not only herself, but also her place within the world’s collective of women. This overarching female experience is evident in group members’ common need to defend their work.

The artists in this collection have stood up against all-too-common misconceptions of self-portraiture: Only an egomaniac would photograph themselves! You’re so self-absorbed! On the other side of the critical spectrum, female self-portrait artists often hear that photos of pretty girls are not art; rather, they are magazine ads, fashion spreads, pornography or eye candy. These criticisms present female self-portrait artists with an exciting and powerful opportunity: the chance to categorically refute antiquated notions of the woman’s role as an art object, and to create a new, empowered vision of the female model. She Took Her Own Picture is certainly constructed upon this feminist foundation. However, while this book brings to light women’s own empowered visions of self, it also presents a collection of first-rate photography. At the end of the day, the Female Self Portrait Artists’ Support Group is a collective of women photographers who strengthen their friendship by sharing inspired, artistic, and well-executed photographs. With She Took Her Own Picture they bring you into their circle of friends and share their art with you.

Before the Sun Rose

Hidden Places

Running To and From

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