My first self portrait.

Hello all, this is the first blog entry I have ever done. Im quite excited yet a little nervous to be putting this much thought and ideas out in the open. 

But here we go;

To start I'll give you all some background information on myself as a photographer, all throughout high school I shot film, 35mm. Absolutely loved it, it was beautiful. Wow, I miss film, I truly do. But enough about that Ill get more into film a different time, promise.

Where was I.. Ah yes, I shot with a 35mm film camera and I was all about landscape photography back then, rarely photographed people, NEVER myself, all landscapes. 

Then college came, I attended New Hampshire Institute of Art. It was amazing, the people who studied there, were all outstanding artists,wonderful people and friends who pushed creativity on not only themselves but those around them. Still. First year of school, nothing but film

Nothing. But. Landscapes.

Second year rolls around and I noticed that I have to take a class called Digital One. I was kind of nervous to be honest. Never.. Well rarely used a digital camera in my life so I was completely out of my element.

Saving grace? Doug Prince was my teacher, yes the Doug Prince. Don't know this work ? Go look him up right now. His film photo sculptures are out of this friggin world.... Looked him up yet? Good.

He was also very close friends with Jerry Uelsmann, the definition of a conceptual artist. Having Mr. Prince as a teacher, constantly looking at both his and Jerry Uelsmann's work inspired me like you wouldn't believe. I finally wanted to create.

Yes I was excited, inspired, all of the above but still I didn't know where to start!

I want to get into my first self portrait so this will be quick, the Nikon D3000 was my first digital camera. I have no clue where it is now I think I gave it away to someone but it did its job. I began experimenting different styles of shooting (long exposures became a very good friend of mine) until about a year or so later, not satisfied enough, I began to photograph myself. Self portraits.

There are many of you out there who are deathly afraid of taking self portraits let alone to be in front of a camera. It makes sense, you are vulnerable, exposed, documented and that image will be forever. But fear not, some photographers themselves refuse to stand in front of a lens. 

I've gotten this so many times in college while asking a fellow photographer if I could photograph them, 

Some people just simply do not what their pictures taken, and thats okay! I was exactly like you, hated my picture being taken, would shy away from cameras or get extremely nervous if I was in front of one. But I needed to get these images out of my head, this creative drive to do more than just shoot landscapes or studio portraits. I needed to create something more. It was during that time that I decided to branch out into self portraiture. 

And it was terrifying.. 

Ohhh let me tell you I was terrified. I mean I didn't expect how different and difficult it would be at first. You need to set up that tripod right, the angle in which you want your body to be, test shots, and oh my if you don't have a remote clicker, good luck on getting yourself in focus. It was a nightmare and I was easily frustrated. 

The first idea that I wanted to get out of my head was simple in retrospect but at the time was definitely a challenge. I wanted myself, sitting on a book, crosslegged, hand out and reading the words on the page. Simple, right?

No. Not at first, but trust me it gets easier.

The biggest challenge in creating images like this is the ability to select in photoshop and having the right angles of both the original image and yourself for it to work properly and look right in the eyes of the viewer. At first shooting both at the same angle was a challenge for me and I ended up having to reshoot about five or six times. Tip: If images don't look as good on the computer as the did on the camera, RESHOOT! Its critical to not force images, it will hinder your creative process and your love for that idea. 

Ah! Finally! got the correct image of myself, angles look good, shape looks decent, psh I'm looking good, awesome I got it! Threw them in photoshop and began to create my first... conceptual? Self portrait. Oh man it was hard but so much fun, selected myself the best I could (which was downright horrible, I had to lower the opacity of myself to like 70% cause I didn't know how to smooth out edges.. Ugh. You'll see.) dragged and placed myself on the image of the book. Resized, and everything... But something did not look right... I looked as if I was floating, not sitting and I didn't know what was wrong, how do I fix this? Aladdin? Again, frustration kicking in...

Seriously frustrating, the act of creating is. *Yoda's voice*

Anyways remember how I said I attended an art school? I began to ask my peers, starting with my roommates. One was an illustration major, the other graphic design. Both of them, at the same time. "Dude... you need a shadow."

DUHHHH!! (If I could re use that GIF ^^ I would.)

At this point felt like I should just drop out, leave the country and never look at art again. How could I not realize that it was the lack of a shadow underneath me that was making it seem like my body was floating? I needed to be grounded. Literally. On the book. So I took a deep breath... And I put my own version of a shadow which at the time was I guess just a black circle underneath my whole body with no sense of light direction what so ever but hey, I was just starting out right? Right.

After staring at what I thought was a final image for about 3 days I decided that it was, well, finished. And when it was all said and done I had my first self portrait / manipulation / conceptual piece.. Or whatever you want to call it. And here it is... 



Yup all that frustration, creative drive, the idea, the stupidity all lead to this. As you can see the shadow is off, my body is partly invisible because I didn't know a damn thing about how to select properly. But hey it was exciting, challenging and all around mentally rewarding and encouraged me to continue along this path and create bigger and better images. If you get anything out of this mess of a post just keep on creating and challenging yourself. Become the artist you want to be, or even the person you want to be for that matter.

Thank you all for reading, hope you enjoyed this. Create. Whenever you can! Go go go!


Paul Warren