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Learning Photography: The Many Types of Self-Portraits

I don’t like taking selfies and I don’t like being in selfies — the extended arm to fit the face and some context into the tight frame at the 28mm focal length, the slightly downward-facing flattering angle for hiding the double chin, the big smile we seem to reserve for when we are being photographed, none of it. I did go through a selfie-of-the-day phase a few years back, even bought a selfie stick. I was in one of my thin phases and I look good in those photos, but I’m always a little embarrassed when I look at them.

I have now had my camera for a few months, and I have been taking photographs almost everyday, but I have rarely turned the lens towards myself and taken photographs of myself. This week, something changed, and I have had this strange desire to photographing myself, as a stranger would, out in the streets, or a lover would, around the house. The wide-angle 24mm focal length XF 16mm f1.4 lens has been on my camera ever since I got it, and I have been enjoying using it for self-portraits, even though it’s an unusual choice.

I was sick last week, with 104 degree fever and 140 resting heart rate, a first for me, and perhaps a sign that I am growing old. It was a strange cocktail of infections, thankfully not covid, but made more scary because it could have been. When the fever finally came down, I washed my hair, and trimmed my beard, and felt like I was born again. I put the camera on a tripod in the balcony, and triggered it with the Fujifilm app on the iPhone. I thought I’ll take environment portraits, but in the photographs I liked the most, I was close to the lens, sometimes inches away, and my big hair filled the frame. I used the Acros film simulation with the red filter, and warmed up the photos to give them a sepia tinge. These are not particularly flattering photos, but I like them. If these were photographs of a stranger I had shot on the street, I would have said — that’s such an interesting face! — and I like that feeling when I am photographing myself.

This week, I have also been photographing parts of myself, my hands, my feel, places in the house I have recently been. I imagine this is how I would photograph a lover, or a lover would photograph me, and I think of these photographs as somewhat abstract self-portraits too. I am discovering that I like photographing my hands; I have long, thin, bony fingers, scarred from forty years of collected cuts and bruises, but I am suddenly fascinated with them. I think they are going to find their way into more photographs of books and pizzas and LeelaCat.

More tomorrow.

By Gaurav Mishra

Learning to see the #beauty, #play and #vitality in #quarantinelife, mostly by learning to make photos and learning to write about them.