For me, posing for others and shooting self portraits are at the ends of this sort of sliding scale.
At first, it was tilted much more, and completely for a few years, towards the posing for others end.
When I began shooting self portraits in January of 2012 it was meant to supplement my work with photographers. It was also a way for me to shoot content for Zivity which was a big source of income for me at the time.
I preferred shooting with photographers over self portraits then because I found doing everything to the degree I felt it needed to be done to be tedious. I struggled with lighting and resetting the camera after every shot was especially time consuming.
I enjoyed posing. That was really it. I was shooting self portraits so I could keep posing. It took some time for me to enjoy doing my own makeup, then styling, and finally, only within the last year or two, experimenting with lighting.
On the other side, I’ve felt for a few years now that many local photographers undervalue me. The paid market in my area hasn’t been supportive of my style, my look, or my limits in general. That was very upsetting to me for a while and I literally cried about it many, many times. I felt like I had a lot to offer, but no one could see that.
Then, I found Patreon and with it a way to build a community of supporters who do value my creativity, both in the form of things I shoot myself and with others. It was slow growing at first and I still hit those plateaus for growth, but I feel driven again! Patreon also gave me that extra little push when I started shooting what have become my Sensual Selfies on a whim. I posted a few of them and found that people really enjoyed that style, so it has become a whole new avenue of creative exploration for me.
As I’ve progressed along enjoying more and more of the individual aspects of shooting self portraits I’ve also developed something of a style. I’ve also found a creation process and tools that work for me.
Simultaneously, shooting with photographers has become more difficult. I don’t have as much time to shoot and my car anxiety means I prefer to shoot very close to home. There are friends and a relative few others who I enjoy collaborating with, of course, but trying to get people in this market to hire me was creating this dark cloud for me. So I changed up my strategy.
The scale has now started to tip strongly towards self portraits for me.
I know a lot of people may think I focus on self portraits too much. What they probably don’t understand is that self portraits have saved my creativity. They’ve also boosted my confidence, my self worth, and my income. My urge to create isn’t financially driven, but I have bills to pay too! The income allows me to continue growing in my creativity, too. I can finally afford wardrobe, set pieces, equipment upgrades, etc. I still have to budget carefully and save for those things, but they’re within reach now. That is a form of growth and motivation for me that really fuels my creativity.
I am quite honestly proud of myself for making a path. It reminds me of being a kid and playing in these dense brush areas on my family’s property. My siblings and I would move vines over, cut away what we needed to, use what we couldn’t move, and create spaces to play. We took what we had and made it work. I’ve done the same with my modeling and my creativity. It might not be the easiest path, or one everyone understands, but it suits me.
I do still hope to collaborate with photographers, but only those who I enjoy creating with. I no longer need to chase paid work, to endure immense anxiety for extended drives in the car, or to try to convince people of my worth. And no, I don’t foresee ever giving up posing for other photographers altogether, but I want those shoots to be of good value to me and with the least amount of stress possible.
I hope I continue to explore, to build more of this path, and, most of all, to create both completely of myself and through collaborations with others.
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