I’m not sure how to start this post. Y’all. April’s self-portrait went wildly off the rails. Fully transparent here – not every photoshoot works, not every setting works out, things happen, things fail. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do exactly for April’s shoot. I knew what I wanted to wear. I’d found an old prom dress at a thrift store a few months back, and I bought a crop shirt with puffy sleeves and a vest to go over the top of it. What I would have loved was a dark academia type setting, outdoors along a stone wall, a corridor of some sort. However, the only places in town that I know like that wouldn’t be ideal for self-portraits, where I have to be both behind and in front of the camera. I thought about the side yard of my house, paved with bricks and rocks, with an old wooden fence on one side, and I said, hmm, why not? It wasn’t right, but it was something.
Jason was at the thrift store for unrelated reasons, and I asked him if there were any interesting chairs there that I might be able to use for a shoot. He actually found a really cute one! I still had the books out from the recent bookworm princess photoshoot. I’d straightened my hair, put on my outfit, and in a weird mood that I didn’t yet recognize, I made up my face to look sickly and deadish. Everything was cobbled together with only a vague plan, and to make things worse, the timing was completely off. I planned to go out late enough that the side yard would no longer have golden light, but would still have light enough for photos. I had two light sticks that I was going to use to color in with extra directional color, one white, one blue, but they were only meant to add to the effect, not become the sole light sources of the shoot. Through a series of unfortunate coincidences, though, Jason and I got everything set up half an hour later than expected, and I lost light quickly. I also chose the wrong lens for the confines of the space. The majority of the photos came out terribly, and I felt so angry by the end of the shoot. Angry, and worthless as a photographer, and hideous in my body, and ashamed of the entire evening. (Note: The above collage is a sampling of the bad photos – I chose to edit them the same way as the good photos, to show that while you can do a lot with editing, you can’t save a bad photo.)
Usually, I come out of these self-portrait shoots feeling really good. Some of the shots can be really frustrating, because I’m not a model and it’s difficult to be both in front of and behind the camera simultaneously, but generally I find some good balance by the end of a shoot. Not so this time. I went to bed angry and upset, had restless dreams all night long, and decided that I couldn’t live with the results. I was going to need a redo.
My hair was still relatively straight. The morning light would be a similar softness as evening for a short while, so I put on my makeup – less ghoulish this second time – and got things set up again. I grabbed a different lens, and didn’t bother with the light sticks since it was daylight and they would’ve just gotten in the way. Somehow overnight, things had finally solidified in my mind, and I realized that far from the original idea I had of dark academia – since I didn’t have an appropriate setting for that – I was trying to personify the way I feel in April and May. Long time friends and readers will know that this is the time of year that I suffer from intense depression, agoraphobia, and PTSD. The unconscious way I’d put together my makeup, to look dead and bruised and sickly, married up with how I’ve been feeling for weeks. And with that better idea of the vibe I was going for, combined with better light and a different lens, the secondary self-portrait shoot went well.
These aren’t pretty pictures. They aren’t meant to be. They’re highly stylized to complement the feeling I wanted to get across, and they feel heavy, drained, lethargic. I didn’t originally set out to take photos of depression and PTSD, but honestly it was pretty cathartic to create them.