So, these are from my shoot with India Hobson, that I already wrote quite a bit about already on a previous blog entry ‘Through My Reflection‘. These are the self portrait style shots, where India set the camera up on a tripod with a sync lead, and left me in the room on my own for 10 minutes or so, to just do whatever.
In my modelling work, posing for the camera and conveying a range of expressions, emotions and characters has become a pretty easy state of mind to switch into… whether more commercial or artistic… I enjoy it all, and feel safe and confident there. I have been modelling for over 5 years now, and have been earning my full time income from it for 4 years, and it’s been a pretty big part of my life. It takes a lot of involved commitment and energy to make it all work, staying popular and in demand, and therefore of course it becomes very important and at times quite consuming. I certainly put a lot of myself into my poses, but for me, I find there is barrier that can start to build up. The way that, with most jobs, you put on a certain ‘face’, and after working hours, you leave that behind. But when your ‘brand’ image is also YOU, it can become hazy where the line of posing vs being ‘natural’ begins and ends
With people’s obsession with beauty, in the modelling industry, and in regular life, we are judged each day by how we look. People are pressured, some are held back in certain ways. Someone more or less beautiful, can be at times considered more/less special and valuable, with good appearences often getting your further in certain situations. Having red hair, I am sometimes considered more ‘rare’ and ‘unique’, with people telling me how special and beautiful I am, but really, although on the surface I take it as a compliment, inside I just don’t get it, and don’t mean that ungratefully, but I am no more special than the next person because of the follicles of my hair, it’s just an image.
I have also experienced, going out to the shops in very plain clothes and no make-up, and feeling treated completely differently to when I’ve been out dressed in something more attractive with more ‘stereotypically beautiful’ styling. Or like when we go to a party and feel we can’t be ourself due to what we look like, our body, what we’re wearing, or inabiliity to show our real character.
I see my face, and ‘image’, so much, in hundreds of pictures, and in the mirror as I prepare for shoots, and sometimes I want to remove myself from it, escape and see things in a different way. It makes me wonder what a world would be like if we were all just floating around as equal, featureless glowing orbs, and had a completely different system of recognition.
Don’t worry by the way, I’m not having some kind of model breakdown. (Though I can totally imagine what might have made Britney Spears shave all her hair off!) It’s just something I have grown increasingly fascinated and curious to explore. It’s what I think of for clarity’s sake as ‘Image vs Faceless Self’.
Image is our outer shell; our physical looks – clothes, hair, skin, make-up, height, body shape, and the idea of ourselves that we project to the world. Faceless Self is our inner self, our soul / spirit, individual life energy seperate from physical identity. But when we have become so connected and accustomed to how we look, can we even imagine ourselves without our visual appearence? In my medium of photographic modelling, can I push through my image?
Anyhow (if you’re still with me), bearing in mind, these ideas of image, truth and reality had been floating around my head before and leading up to this shoot, with my tendancy to overthink and try to untangle, the intricacies of the mind and heart; the self portrait set-up was a strange situation to be in. As a model, when you are left to your own devices to photograph yourself… at first it appears you have no-one to perform to but a camera lens, but inevitably – you have a future audience also – India (who would look through the pictures on her camera) and most probably many more people, by way of sharing the results, they way I’m doing now. It felt like I was being handed an immense opportunity, a gift; to express myself completely truly and naturally, but somehow, it seemed so daunting and difficult. Can I liken it to an animal kept in captivity for years, and then suddenly having the door opened to walk free, and feeling… well, not quite sure about it really. Excited and bewildered, but also confused and exposed… uncertain and unprepared for the language and life of the free.
I’ve added quite a lot of the photos here, as I think it shows some of the emotions I was playing and battling with. Confusion, as I thought of ‘what to do’, and frustration in realising that the more I thought about what to do, the more contrived it would be. There is a struggle and attempts to break free, to look closer… looking into the black eye of the camera, and further, travelling forward through time, into the eyes of the people who would be viewing it. Including into the eyes of myself. Questioning. Searching. You will also see I didn’t use my face for all my shots, which I think was certainly a conscious decision to try and move away from my image and express something different.
In these ‘self portraits’, I still felt like there was this layer of something, that I couldn’t quite penetrate through. I don’t know if people who don’t model, can imagine what that’s like. And maybe not all models get this either. It’s hard to describe. I think I was trying to convey my ‘being’. Could I photograph my spirit? I don’t know… and to be honest I’m not really sure if I know what I’m bambling on about, so god knows if you do… but the results are interesting. This was really for India’s project, but the whole shoot with her helped give me a really insightful start into my little journey of exploration, even if I found it a bit frustrating, it was a good experiment, and I have germinating ideas on how I can delve further into these themes. So it’s a work in progress. Maybe you can tell me what you think?