I’m apart of this awesome little photography community called Unraveled Academy and each month they post an assignment they’d like the students to work on. I joined a little late in the month, but I still had a week left in March so I figured I’d try out photography assignment they had posted and dabble in some self portraits.

There are many reasons to explore self portrait photography. Honestly, it’s a great way to practice your technical skills: lighting, posing, angles, composition, etc. You have a ready and willing(well at least somewhat) model available to do what you want. It takes more time, but it also puts you in the model’s shoes, so you can understand what you’re putting your subjects through. Understanding and connection to your subjects is vital for a photographer. The best portraits are captured when there is a great connection between the photographer and the subject.

Self portrait photography also encourages self-expression and self-reflection. You really have to ask yourself what exactly are you trying to convey? Are you just trying to look pretty? Are you documenting something specific? What are you trying to reveal in your images? Who exactly is that person behind the camera?

I ask myself a lot of these questions and more when I work on self portraits. And when I was working on this photo assignment, I realized something about myself. I tend to use self-portraits to help me work through tough situations. I took a lot of self portraits when I went through my divorce, or having trouble being so far from home. And so I was drawn to this assignment for a similar reason.

Nearly six months ago, I went through a traumatic experience. I don’t think I’m ready to write more about it. Or at least in a such a public setting. However, my self portrait project definitely became about that experience and using my photographs to express how I’ve been trying to work through it. I’ve tried too hard just to put it behind me and forget about it. But it’s still there, always looming in the background. Each time I’m reacquainted with what happened, it’s like a slap in the face. Or a shower of icy water that freezes the air in my lungs.

I keep going through these waves of thinking I’m alright, immediately followed up by feeling suffocated by harsh reality. I constantly wish I could go back to feeling like myself, the real me I was before all of this. But the truth is she’s gone. What’s done is done. There’s nothing that I can do to change the past. But I do need to be comfortable with this new me. She’s what I’ve got right now.