It started in the Fall of 2020.
The retreat into the cocoon.
Who am I beneath all these layers? The ones I’ve created and the ones that have been placed on me?
Who am I when mine are the only eyes watching?
How do I see myself?
Who do I envision myself to be?
What versions of myself would I release into the world unbridled if I wasn’t thinking of what others thought, or how they saw and perceived me?
Observer and observed.
Watcher and watched.
It’s both an external and internal practice.
For example, choices around what to wear, what to do with my hair, or how to position myself in front of the camera, while seemingly based on externally perceived appearance, actually reflect the inner desire to feel a certain way – or simply to see how I might feel.
At first though, with my first round of self-portraits in Fall 2020, I just had an overwhelming urge to capture something. To capture myself. To document a morning when I woke up feeling different.
This first session was very raw. I had literally just woken up, and knew I had to ride whatever wave I was on. I hardly thought about my clothes at all, or about how my hair looked.
I woke up like this – different in ways I’m not sure of yet.
For now, though, I’m deep in reflection.
This first session was especially powerful for me in a creative sense, because I actually hadn’t picked up my camera for months before this. It was like getting reacquainted with my camera, and the part of myself that needed it.
It wasn’t particularly artistic, or even that well-done from a technical perspective.
It was just raw. I was raw.
I was coming undone and peeling back layers and cracking open. I couldn’t begin to comprehend what I was experiencing, except by peering at myself through my camera.
I needed to give myself an outsider’s view
So, that was the beginning of it all.
It was a point of no return for me, creatively and otherwise.
For one, I knew I would be doing more self-portraits. There was no denying that.
But I also knew my desire to photograph others as a business was no longer there. My photography business was no longer fuelling me, it was draining me.
I specify “as a business” because I still enjoy the collaborative creation process of photographing other humans, but at least for now, I need it to be purely creative and playful.
From a business perspective, I was coming to terms with having spent two years building something I no longer wanted. Admitting that was hard. And embracing what I was moving towards was also a challenge, because it seemed so random (psst, it’s stock trading).
So, the first round of self-portraits is special in so many ways. Unbeknownst to me, I was documenting a key time in my life, and the start of a new phase.
With the next couple of sessions I was definitely still digging deeper, and exploring creatively, but I was still stifling myself. I was imposing creative limits on myself, and I didn’t even realize it, or perhaps, I just hadn’t given myself permission to fully get into it.
But I was still getting comfortable with the self-portrait set-up and figuring out my own approach. I was starting to be more intentional and thoughtful about what I wanted the end result to look like, but I was still quite reserved.
One thing that stood out to me after these sessions was that I wanted more variety in outfits, poses, and facial expressions.
After nearly monthly self-portrait sessions from September 2020-January 2021(I didn’t take any in December 2020), I took exactly a three-month break (completely unplanned).
I don’t have a specific reason for why this happened, but based on the timing, I’d say it was because I had started trading in my live account (AKA real money) and was focusing on that.
And then, magically, the surge of creative energy returned to me in full force in April 2021. I remember I had the vision for this shoot in my mind for a week or two before bringing it to life. I absolutely loved the results of this session – and I still do.
This self-portrait session confirmed for me that I really, really love this type of photography. I feel like I was starting to find my creative voice and that felt so powerful (Psst: I’ve since created a free, 4-day course as an introduction to liberating your full expression through self-portraits).
At the same time, I was in the midst of discovering this new way of seeing myself – like, really seeing myself. And I could choose to see myself any way I wanted.
With this April session, I had felt the hint of something more, another layer I wanted to explore.
It wasn’t just creating images I loved, which is fantastic on its own, it was also about my relationship to myself.
It was about my relationship with my own creativity.
And the abstract concept of how I see myself.
It was also about my relationship to my body, how I see and feel and move through it.
And I was coming to realize it was about all of these things combined with the choices I was making about which pieces to reveal and which to hide.
It was about which aspects felt safe to share with the world, and which aspects I felt I needed to keep locked away.
So when I had an idea for another self-portrait session, I knew I would be taking it further, and revealing more of myself (literally and figuratively), than I ever had.
The first time I shared one of these on Instagram, I experienced so much hesitation and doubt.
Like, “My family will see these – is that okay?? Will I regret this??”
But I actually didn’t hesitate that much, because I posted one of these photos to IG the very same day.
So, it was out there. I had broken past that limit, and then…some major life changes happened, which resulted in no more self-portrait sessions until October 2021. Five months later.
During that time, I remember thinking to myself, “Why don’t I feel like taking self-portraits? I loved doing them so much, and now…I have absolutely no creative urges…”
But, that’s how it goes sometimes with big life events. You just have to ride the wave.
One of the life changes that happened involved moving, and the new place I was in had a clawfoot bathtub.
While I didn’t have a creative urge, or a vision for what I would do for my next self-portrait session, I knew that I would do something with this bathtub.
At some point, a vision started to form, but I still lacked the energy to bring it to life. So I waited.
I held the vision and I waited.
And then it happened.
I woke up one morning knowing, “Today is the day.”
It’s a sometimes tricky combination of needing the time, space, vision, and energy all available at once.
This time, I told more of a story with the photos. I wanted to play into the observer/observed dichotomy, so I imagined what someone might see if they happened to peek through the bathroom door during bath time.
But I realized I couldn’t share the whole story on Instagram (thanks to Meta’s censorship rules regarding nudity; I’m also not sharing the whole story here, but you can see all the images here and searching the “artistic” label – note that this page has evolved since I created it and it’s now 🌶🌶🌶, as well).
I felt stifled again. And a bit angry, honestly.
I could have simply not shared the photos that contained nudity.
Or I could have shared them and blocked or blurred out certain parts.
But I could not bring myself to do that to my own body. To be the agent censoring myself.
I eventually concluded that I would share all the images, uncensored, but not on Instagram.
This decision marked a turning point for me.
It was a decision to continue down the creative path I had embarked on, and to actually share that I was making an intentional choice to join a new platform just for this.
Essentially, I invited people to join me on a creative journey in which I capture and share nude photos of myself.
So, yes, decisions were made. Conversations were had. Blog posts were written (See: Why I started an OnlyFans account & One of the first things I heard when starting an OnlyFans account).
I recognize people create in this way everyday, but for me, stepping into the version of myself that creates and expresses herself without fear or shame was a big step (free course on using self-portraits to liberate your full expression),
And, now that I’m here, I wonder why it took me so long 😂.
Sooo, anyway, that’s the journey so far. I know there’s still so much to explore, and I already have several self-portrait ideas percolating in my mind (I have the time, space, and vision, I just haven’t had the energy yet).
I know there are more layers to peel back, and there’s more of myself to uncover and remember.
And I’m so excited for all of it.
(P.S. I edit all my photos in Adobe Lightroom – affiliate link.)