Distorted Self Portraits

Distorted self portraits is a project I have been thinking about for a while – perhaps it’s a reaction to the massive amount of selfies I see, and then perhaps my images become the anti-selfie. I have an Art Photography class coming up that I’ll be teaching and this is one of the assignments. Students are challenged to take their self portrait, (with the camera on timer), and they must distort their portrait photographically, not digitally. They can obstruct their face and get creative with lighting and angles.

At my studio I have lots of masks that I’ve collected – really for no reason other than an impulse buy when I’m at my favorite dollar store around the corner. For this assignment I felt I could finally employ some masks. The set up is an easy one – one light front right and high up, camera on a tripod and connected to a laptop so I can see the screen in preview mode, and shallow DOF, f/1.4 – the focus is though part.

One of my favorite examples of photographer as subject is the series Untitled Film Stills by Cindy Sherman – it still resonates with me – I have loved that series of images for so many years. Photographers Diane Arbus and Ralph Eugene Meatyard have several photographs where the subject wears a mask. Although their images are memorable to me – they are not so much of an influence on my work.

Some photographers as artists have to be the subject – and I don’t think that’s out of ego or narcissism, just a practicality. And, other photographers have no interest in being their own subject – I understand that too. Distorted self portraits is a useful exercise that enables the photographer as subject to take creative liberties.