The vulnerable Selfie

We’re standing too close to the flame.  Nothing keeps burning so brightly forever.  We can light up the sky and  shine for a lifetime or go out like a spark in the rain.  My heart never knows when it’s standing too close to the flame….. Gina Jeffries

With social media taking up more of our time than actually socialising, the selfie has become the norm.  Phones with cameras and selfie sticks have changed the way we see ourselves.  There was a time that if someone displayed a photo of themselves, it could be seen as a bit egotistical.  Nowadays, we post photos of us everywhere and it’s just considered normal.  When I travelled overseas, I played many sessions of the game “avoid getting poked in the eye by a stray selfie stick”.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not adverse to selfie sticks. Not at all.  In fact there were many times overseas I wish I had one because many of the shots I would have liked to have taken,  there was noone around to hand my camera too.  If there was anyone around, they were too busy taking 100 photos of themselves with their selfie sticks.  So photos like my two cousins and myself standing on the Treaty Stone in Limerick (as we all promised our Grandmother we’d do) was only ever 2 at a time instead of all 3 of us.

To be honest, I cannot take a self portrait to save myself.  I look ridiculous.  I’m at a wrong angle and I look like I’m in some funhouse mirror.  Also, I can’t make a smart mouthed comment to myself to make me laugh and get a spontaneous photo so I always look painfully posed.  I see some amazing selfies and am in awe of them.  I also see some incredible self portraits (and yes there is a difference between a selfie and a self portrait) and think “why can’t I do that?”

I have thought long and hard about it and have come to the conclusion that it’s because I don’t look at myself the way I look at other people.  When I take a photo of someone, I’m always looking for their best points.  I study them and then hone in on their best features to enhance their beauty.  I, along with most other people, am so critical of myself that I can’t find the features that I look for in others.  I must try to change that.  I think it’s good to be able to offer your own interpretation of yourself to the world, instead of someone else’s version of you.

One of the projects I’m working on this year involves taking a lot of portraits of people and try to represent them within a fantasy type scene, as representative of their real self as I can.  This isn’t always easy becomes sometimes what I see in people is a fragile, vulnerable child who is pretending to be okay.  When I show people that side of themselves, they could easily become offended.  Thankfully, people so far have been grateful that someone has seen them as they truly are and seen the beauty in them.  It’s so much harder to do for yourself though because that is like putting yourself on display for all the world to see your vulnerabilities.  To set out to represent myself in a true fashion was extremely hard to do as I like to present a very different version of myself to the world. AND, I don’t like my photo taken.

Luckily, I have met a lot of people since I started this journey, who can take good photos so I have a few of myself that I really like.  I got asked by a few people when I was going to make myself the subject of one of my fantasy scenes so under sufferance, I started going through photos and found one that was taken by one of my fellow students (as well as being one of my favourite people in the whole wide world) Kirsty.  About 5 weeks into our TAFE journey we had to do some portraits and we paired up together to do ours.  The 19 year old and the 51 year old, yet despite the age difference, we work well together.  Kirsty took a series of shoots with me dressed as a fortune teller.  What I didn’t see in the crystal ball was that one day I would have this printed and hung on my wall but I did and I have.

I call this photo The Flame.  It was named after one of my favourite Gina Jeffries songs  and to me it signifies how I worry so much about the past and the future that I fail to see what’s happening around me in the here and now.  I think most of us are guilty of that to some degree but it is something that I think goes along with that dreamer tag I was speaking about the other day.  I am making a serious effort this year to be more present in the here and now and stop gazing into the future, waiting for something to happen.  By tomorrow the future will again be the present and it’s a never ending circle.  What’s that old song? “Let’s forget about tomorrow, tomorrow never comes”.

So in my attempt to change things a little and be present now, I worked on this photo with Kirsty’s permission.  The background was taken in the grounds of Blarney Castle in Ireland and the gypsy caravan was also at Blarney.  I added the fire from photos of fire I have taken at various times.  I have the finished portrait hanging on my wall as a constant reminder to live in the present and not worry about the future.  Many thanks to Kirsty from KLB Images for allowing me to edit and use the photo she took and to make it part of my self representation.

The Flame



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