|Me by Bruce Giffin|
Artists regularly create self portraits. Van Gogh has a couple famous ones. As does Rembrandt. Cindy Sherman shoots herself in costumes and quirky environments. I'm a huge fan of Francesca Woodman's hauntingly lonely images. Sometimes there's no one else to paint/shoot. A convenient, mostly cooperative, model. A friend's museum posed a question as to the legitimacy of the selfie as a means of self expression in the context of art. After attempting a couple of these and coming up wildly short of anything remotely interesting, I was informed someone else could take the shot. Isn't that just portraiture then? It appears both Cindy and Francesca had someone else shoot the image? It's a selfie if the set dressing is theirs? But ok. I came upon this information standing next to one of Detroit's most gifted photographers, Bruce Giffin. He generously offered to take my shots. Cool.
We discussed some ideas (collaboration is ok, right?) but decided to let the images develop organically. Seeing as this is art, there was the possibility of some nudity. I found myself agreeing to any ideas presented. Never gave it another thought until about two hours before Bruce was to pick me up. I wanted to throw up I was so nervous. What was I thinking? Oh god, oh god. I know it's ART, but . . . oh god.
There are two forms of fear. If the brakes on my car fail and I'm headed toward a busy intersection, fear can be pretty handy. The one I'm focusing on is the fear that can cause me to play it too safe and miss out on something incredible. I learned a trick when I hopped a plane to Paris by myself a few years ago. Second day there, I realized how far away I was, that I couldn't just rent a car and drive home. I completely freaked out. I want my mommy! So I called home. My Mom was great. Ok. We'll change your flight and you can come home now. Relief washed over me. When she knew I'd calmed down she asked, "But will you regret it if you come home early?" I knew the answer was, yes. I use this anytime I'm facing something I'm in to but I'm scared. It's appropriate to be scared in these situations. Be afraid. Do it anyway. Once I make that decision, I calm right down and it's usually pretty easy. This shoot was great. I surprised myself how far I was willing to go. (Helps to have a brilliant photographer that doesn't give me the creeper vibe.) Another unexpected effect was a bump in confidence. Not so much that I can look this good, that too, but I faced down a fear. The more fears I face down, the stronger I get. The next one isn't as hard. And I get to do some pretty amazing shit. I don't want to get to the end of my life and say "I'm sure glad I played it safe and paid all those bills on time!" Too many people are huddled in their homes grasping for a security that doesn't exist. Yes, it's scary to step off the front porch. Do it anyway. The world is a kick ass place to live in. Just last night I was lying in bed with the windows open. A neighbor had a fire going or was grilling. Damn, that smelled good. Soft bed with crisp white sheets on a warm summer night, breeze brushing against my legs. Whew. Lovely.
The other component, a bit off topic, but a major contributor to doing this shoot and then feeling great about it, is my age. Someone recently told me that when a woman turns 50 she becomes invisible to men. Huh. Do I look invisible? I'm 52. That shot I posted is unedited. It's the raw photo. No Photoshop. No filters. No fancy lighting. Didn't even bother to crop it (see the clips on the painting?). It's real. That's how Bruce likes it. So do I. There are more shots coming. I'll turn around for you. Face shots with my "11" between the eyebrows. My little pot belly. Wasn't it Pulp Fiction where Bruce (coincidence?) Willis' character tells his lover he likes her pot and she comments that all French women have them and they're hot? I have no interest in any shades of grey. I'm interested in real, soft, curvy, smart, independent, creative, sexy as hell women. Be afraid. Hang out with me anyway.