Saturday, April 24, 2010

guest blogger

Why do girls take pictures of themselves? I've been asking myself this a lot since ending the wardrobe project. Though I have been taking self portraits since jr. high, it has only been in the last year that I have started sharing them with the world at large . . . with mixed feelings. Yes, many many girls are posting their pictures online - just look at Wardrobe Remix for example - and yes, we do it because we love dressing up and want to show off our fabulous threads. This is what I keep telling myself, but I can't help feeling there is something more to it than that and got very interested in the figuring out what sort of girl takes pictures of herself and what her motivations are. To that end I decided to recruit my dear friend and one of my favorite underdiscovered writers, R.C. and put the question to her.

The Self-Portrait Blues

By R. C.

Miss G. asked me to write about why so many girls do that thing of taking tons of photos of ourselves. We remember having an interesting conversation about this subject years ago (I have a ton of photos I’ve taken of myself since I was little). I don’t recall coming to a conclusion about why so many of us are inclined to take so many self-portraits; if I did draw a conclusion, years ago, I can’t imagine what it was, because today the question stumps me. All I can do is come up with a list of observations about this phenomenon.

1. When I was a teenager, I took a picture of myself whenever I was in the middle of crying.

2. The girls I know who do a lot of self portraits are, across the board, a) beautiful, and b) insecure.

3. My instable and emotionally immature mother used to have really bad fits of anger. She’d either cut herself during these fits, or give herself a really fucked up haircut. In the midst of these tantrums, or maybe during the calm after the storm, she often (always?) took a photo of herself. She takes her photos on disposable cameras and always orders doubles. In many of the letters I’ve received from her throughout the years, she’s included one of these disturbing self-portraits.

(self portrait of the author 4/26/93)

4. Sometimes, girls’ self portraits feel like an empowering art project, an homage to Cindy Sherman. When I was a teenager I took 2 series’ of photos using the self-timer on my 35 millimeter camera, and I was really proud of both of these series, I felt like a real visual artist. Both series’ of photos required dressing up and creating a set that contributed to a narrative: one was of me kneeling to pray and then packing to run away, with the TV on in the background. The other series I took, in the really neat garage at one of the houses Miss G. and I lived in, was of me dressed up and dancing with a broom.

5. I’ve known many girls who take pictures of their injuries after cutting themselves. Sometimes I think they end up showing them to people at the time of their crisis, which makes these photos seem like a cry for help. But all the self-mutilation photos I’ve seen or taken were kept to the photographer for years, shown much later after the fact/phase of cutting.

So I don’t know what conclusion to draw from these observations. I think the most significant clue here is that, like I said, all the girls I’ve know who’ve taken lots of photos of themselves have been beautiful and insecure: I’m thinking of a lot of specific girls when I say this, like at lease twenty female friends are coming to mind off the top of my head. To take the pessimistic route, which is the only one I can figure here, maybe it’s because we feel we’ve survived this long, as wild as we are, by “depending on the kindness of strangers,” and we’re afraid of what’ll happen to us when we lose our looks, so we want lots of documentation of the salad days.

Please tell me I’m wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment