Hope you have found this letter okay! I decided to do an open letter, as in my interpretation of your self-portraiture task, I feel they go well together within the idea of honesty and vulnerability. I am a second year BA Photography student at Coventry University in the UK. Our current module, Phonar, revolves around The Photographers Playbook, which you contributed to. I was lucky enough to get assigned your task, The Self Portrait.
I have said that every task I have been set has been challenging, which they have, all forcing me out of my comfort zone and often making me think, “hu, actually I really like this method and approach.” However, I think your task has been the most challenging one for me, which I can say in hindsight after completing all assigned tasks. Doing self-portraiture is something I pretty much try to avoid. I am partial to a selfie, and back in college I done special effects/fantasy shoots using myself as a model. But making a true and honest self-portrait is something that in some respects scares me.
Laying myself bare for everyone to see, unmediated is something that makes me uncomfortable. However, this is something this task encourages with the lists of words to start off with. Not only was this a good exercise for starting of a portrait, but helped me to understand and articulate who I am at the present moment.
With the portrait itself, I thought if I am going to do it, I may as well go all out and show as much honesty and vulnerability as I can. Recently my mental health has not been so great, frequently having panic attacks and sleepless nights, which take their toll. Despite this becoming a somewhat significant part of my life recently, I always try to hide it away from people. Turns out an early five am panic attack set the perfect stage for a self portrait, taking a photo when at my most honest and vulnerable moment.
After taking the image I toyed a lot with whether it was good, whether I could bring myself to post it on Instagram and my blog for everyone to see. Despite the moment I posted it being completely terrifying, I felt empowered. Taking control of this side of myself I don’t like, choosing to show people. It did feel good, and although its not my best work by far, I am proud of it and it responds to the task.
The only thing about this task that I did not really understand and struggle with was the list of verbs. It makes sense, but also felt strange picking verbs to describe myself. What this task has taught me is to take more risks with my work and myself, be more honest and let it come from within. The idea of work coming from within yourself is something I have picked up on throughout all the tasks, and also something I have in the past avoided.
Though I am not going to be rushing to do another self portraiture this honest and true, it has helped me personally and creatively.
As a class we are going to be producing a book in response to The Photographers Playbook, which will collate all our responses. My response to your task (at this moment in time) will be a double page spread, which previously would be a no go for me. I would love for you to see the final publication when it is made, if you are interested?
I would love for you to see more of my work, and the work of my peers. Check out the #phonar2016 tag on Instagram and Twitter for some great work. My Twitter is @allysophphoto, Instagram is @allysophphotography.
To see my response to your task and work made inspired by your practice, check out these links;