It seems like every photographer has done a self-portrait project. Not me. The self-timer and I have declared a ceasefire. Our battles are always the same: I set up the shot and pre-focus on the leaf where my butt will go, and I hit the shutter and run into the frame. Which leaf was I supposed to sit on again? The camera doesn’t wait, it starts snapping away, and just as I figure out what to do with my left hand, the burst is finished and it’s time to haul myself back up to check the back of the camera. Most images end up with awkward parts of my body cut out of the frame or out of focus in ways that aren’t artsy at all.
In that moment, I finally I understand what it feels like to see yourself on the other side of the lens. What in the world is that claw hand about? -delete- OMG is that what my profile really looks like? -delete- Why oh why didn’t I brush the hair out of my eyes? -delete- My elbow looks WAY too bony from that angle, gross. -delete- It’s a vulnerable place to be, on the other side of that lens. It amazes me how brave you have to be to let me shoot you. How much trust you all give me when you let me point the camera your way.
I pondered it all as I stared into the rushing water of the Musconetcong. My happy place. Even if all my self-portraits made me cringe, I wanted to hang on to the memory. All the memories. All the times my sister and I went swimming with our beat-up river shoes on. All the times I ran over the bridge building up endurance for cross-country…and then came to the Dreaded Hill. That 4th of July when I went tubing through with my best friends. And all the times I walked down there just to sit.
So I went back and forth once again. Camera shutter. Leaf. And when the burst finished, I didn’t scrutinize every shot. I just turned the camera off and stared into the water instead.