Shooting self

This triptych is the result of an attempt at self-portraiture last weekend, with the Self-Portrait workshop ran jointly by Nadirah Zakariya and I, as part of the Exposure+ Photo series of workshops.

The workshop covered the historical aspects of the painted portrait from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance era and I shared the premise that many master painters utilised photography to influence their great works. I presented how the purpose of portraiture has changed with the invention of the camera and the negative, allowing the masses to make low cost reproducible photographs. In the second half, Nadirah presented and shared the works of contemporary photographers who specialises in self portraits, before setting a task for each participant to shoot a set of home self-portraits to be presented the following week.

Shooting the self isn’t as straightforward as it appears, as there are perhaps more preparations to plan out than photographing another, since you are both the subject and the camera operator. Composition, framing and concept is mostly trial and error. As is focusing, and tripping the shutter – a manual affair for my old school set up. I learnt from the other participants that they used a wifi-controlled app on their phones to compose and shoot themselves – and there was I, darting back and forth from camera to pose, checking framing and focus constantly.

I wanted to make a series of tight head shots with my 90mm at the closest focus distance of 1m, shooting wide open, but obtaining pin point focus was a task in itself, since the DOF is so shallow. Overall I took over 50 shots, most were slightly out of focus or the framing was off. Perhaps I will use a 28mm next time.

Coming up with a concept may not be easy for most, including myself. Self-portraits aren’t my strong point. I seldom even take selfies, but this workshop task has opened up a new way of representation and self-expression that is worth a second look and can be quite liberating.

Incidentally, KLPA‘s theme this year is ‘Sense of Self’ in the Single Image category and is now open for entries.

Steven

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