Photo Exploration: Self Portrait, Shadow and Playground

Tak­ing self por­traits are one of the most mis­er­able expe­ri­ences I can envi­sion with a cam­era. I don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mind hav­ing my pho­to made (although that isn’t my favorite) but being both the oper­a­tor and sub­ject ranks down there with shoot­ing an out­side, night­time wed­ding in sleet and snow.

How­ev­er, that mea­sure of pref­er­ence is a clear indi­ca­tor that I need to work on that very thing I dis­like. I think there are numer­ous ben­e­fits to push­ing the com­fort lev­el — it helps me grow from dis­dain to accep­tance to enjoy­ment of a par­tic­u­lar activ­i­ty. Addi­tion­al­ly, it helps me (the pho­tog­ra­ph­er) talk and com­mu­ni­cate with me (the sub­ject), which in turn strength­ens my skills for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with oth­er subjects.

While out with my son (who, by the way, wants to have his pho­to made as often as pos­si­ble — must get it from his mom) I was work­ing with pho­tograph­ing the forms of play­ground equip­ment. The wood and steel, plas­tic and rub­ber, all com­posed for a max­i­mum of fun and a min­i­mum of harm. Tru­ly form fol­low­ing func­tion. The remark­able shad­ows cast were end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, and in one of them I saw my shad­ow acci­den­tal­ly creep into frame. Inspi­ra­tion hot, and real­iz­ing that I could take a self por­trait with­out the has­sle of a self-timer, tri­pod, walk­ing back and forth to review, etc, I made the pho­to below.


I have been car­ry­ing my Fuji x100 around more and more, espe­cial­ly when out with fam­i­ly. This portable par­ty of a cam­era has opened up pre­vi­ous­ly unavail­able sub­jects and ses­sions by mere­ly being avail­able. I still love shoot­ing film on loca­tion, and my dig­i­tal SLR’s most def­i­nite­ly have a place in my work­flows. But for the dai­ly fun of find­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty the x100 is unbeat­able in my toolk­it. Not least because of the built-in emul­sions — Velvia, Provia and Astia. Addi­tion­al­ly, the black and white emul­sion is remark­able in clar­i­ty and tonal­i­ty. I have spent entire ses­sions entranced with the beau­ti­ful ren­der­ings pro­duced in cam­era. Although this day was beau­ti­ful with blue skies, yel­low play­ground sand and red struc­tures, work­ing in black and white gave the strongest rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the day.

While it isn’t the most inspi­ra­tional self por­trait ever made, I think it speaks to a lit­tle of my style and desire as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. A lit­tle slouch, not so much to appear cool and col­lect­ed, but rather to steady against the upright bars. Find­ing a way to keep the fore­ground and back­ground in mod­er­ate bal­ance across the frame. Aim­ing to keep the tex­ture of all mate­r­i­al present. Those points are part of my process and part of my pro­duced work. Is that not what a por­trait is about?