A Pose A Day Helps You Work Rest And Play.
Every now and then I read an email or a comment and the thought occurs to me that perhaps some people, who only know me via this Daily Self Portrait project, and for whom this project is just plain weird or intense or stupid or whatever, perhaps some people have an underlying assumption that this work must be rooted in some kind of mental health issue, or a crisis, or some kind of compulsive unhappiness etc.
It sometimes occurs to me that perhaps, all this time, I naively take for granted that I'm generally very self confident and that to me it's just obvious that this is a project rooted in a high self esteem. That it's rooted in my general day to day contentedness. That I enjoy being who I am.
As I say, such things are taken for granted by me, but are not necessarily obvious to other people, especially if they are filtering me via X, Y and Z assumptions. So I feel it's probably important every now and then to articulate and share some of my own thoughts specifically about this project. Especially since it's been going for about 18 months now.
For instance, it's probably important to say, another thing I take for granted, that when I look at my portraits I never ever think of them being "weird" or "bizarre" etc (and I'm not saying it's a bad thing if you do think of them as "weird", just that I never do). I like how I look in these daily shots and if I could have sex with the version of myself that's dated 11th Jan 08
, I would.
And of course the portraits make me giggle sometimes, ( .... the African Grey parrot that lives here has picked up one of my laughs. Sometimes in bed I hear him weave my laugh in to his improvised early morning chorus).
Fundamentally what I'm doing in this project is playing (and learning) with three of my favourite things - Aesthetics, Ideas and Me - within a commitment to a few arbitrary boundaries (each portrait must be taken before midnight of each day, they can never be shot days in advance nor in retrospect, the default pose is as for identity cards, forward facing, no expression etc etc).
The other day someone emailed me and asked me a few questions about the Daily Self Portraits and here's some thoughts that I sent them in reply ......"has the experience changed since you started it?"
yes and no. I'm in the midst of it, so it's difficult for me to see or articulate the changes.
There are definitely a number of things that evolve gradually. For instance my judgement of what constitutes being an acceptable portrait changes. In retrospect there are a number of ideas in the archive that I would never ever upload today, they needed to be taken further, but I was really satisfied with them at the time. That's very much the nature of new beginnings and learning isn't it. And it's all part of the natural weave of any time based work.
And in the beginning the photographic element of the project was the least important part (in some ways it still is). The pictures were all so dark in the beginning, though I remember being sooooo pleased with them at the time. There are still photographic obstacles and naiveties today. My arm's length isn't really far enough for the camera's minimum focal distance. But using the timer would make the project a nightmare I believe, it would just take too long, I need my finger on the button. And I can't afford a better camera yet, so I choose not to be distracted or blocked by those technicalities and I simply plough on. Again it is all a genuine part of the chronological structuring of the project. One day In the future it will be obvious that I have a new camera etc."Has it ever been a stressful experience to have to get one done everyday before midnight?"
not stressful exactly, but there are days when I don't really feel like doing a portrait. But that is one of the things that gives the project texture, rather than only making portraits when the mood takes me. It creates surprises for me.
One thing I'm really glad of is that even if I feel I want to get today's picture over and done with, I've never uploaded a portrait that I have any doubts about on the day. I will always make myself do another shoot. Which means that I have to remain "in costume" whilst emptying my camera into the computer, just in case.
And obviously after this amount of time doing it I have a small arsenal of potentially ultra quick ideas that I can rely on if I'm in a hurry.
If I know I'm going to be out all day till late, then I simply get out of bed an hour earlier and make the portrait right at the start of the day."is it ritualistic at this point?"
it's a component of my every day like cleaning my teeth or going to the toilet or eating.
At some point of every day I say to myself "ok lets do today's portrait."
there are a few rituals that have developed. For instance the wall in my hall where i shoot the portraits is covered by a large canvas, which I lift down to expose the bare wall that's always behind me. I quite often lift the canvas off in advance to remind me that I haven't done today's shot yet.
One of the things I really love is when I suddenly discover a whole new sub-genre of ideas that then become woven in as recurring "guest star" components. Such as last summer when I introduced real flowers and then every day there was the ritual of going out and finding and picking the flowers first of all. So there are sometimes added mini-rituals for a limited period of time.