11 Women Photographers Open Up About Their Self-Portraits for a New YearMe Ra Koh
For those of you who enjoyed last year’s post, 15 Women Photographers Share Their Self-portraits and Photo Tips, we are back!
It’s been a year since my CONFIDENCE Photography Teachers, and I shared our self-portraits. Over the last year, deep, beautiful change has happened in each of us. We have become more at peace with who we are, more honest with ourselves, and less afraid to show our weaknesses. These transformations are what we strove to capture in our self-portraits for 2014. It seemed only fitting to share some of them with you!
Not only will you be inspired to take your own, but you will be touched by the vulnerability these women share. They bare all of their heart in these self-portraits. We took our cameras and set out to capture who we are today, were we are, where we’ve come from, how we’ve unfolded in spirit and creative confidence, and what dreams we are building.
Being that this photo exercise is always super vulnerable, I’ll start with my self-portrait.
What started out as a creative experiment six years ago became a passion. Self-portraits are my way of visually documenting the different seasons I walk through as a woman, wife, artist and mom. I envision my children someday drawing strength from this growing photo collection, as they see the many struggles and dreams their mom embraced.
Why this self-portrait?
Our family is about to begin our biggest adventure yet. Before March 1st, we will be putting our sweet home on the market, all our belongings into storage, and setting out to film a dream. It’s a family travel show concept that we’ve created which will cover six countries and five continents. For the next year, our little family of four will live like nomads going from one country to the next, capturing, filming and embracing adventure at every turn.
But over the last year, I’ve struggled to fully embrace the vision. It has been a hard process, combined with grief and passion, to respond to the pull both Brian and I feel. When a new creative vision comes knocking on your heart’s door, you know it’s true if it is a mixture of passion and sacrifice. Even though our family has lived in a house in Thailand’s jungle for months at a time and journeyed to Egypt during revolution, I have always lived near my dear parents. Why not rent our home and just return? When I’m quiet with Brian, and we listen together, we feel the pull to let it go and trust what we can’t see — to fully step into the unknown.
With my family’s help, we created a self-portrait that symbolizes the transition my heart is in. We set up our bed, writing desk, and a number of other details in the middle of a field. We lined it up to where the grass changes from being cut to uncharted — even wild — because that is what I sometimes feel we are headed into. I am climbing the steps to get a higher vision, but I’m struggling to let go of my sweet home, my wonderful neighbors, my incredible parents being only twenty minutes away.
My twelve-year-old daughter, Pascaline, is standing in the field already. She is fearless and already way ahead of her mama. But she is also drawing, a deep passion. She symbolizes the truth that my children are always watching mom and taking notes, whether they are conscious of it or not. I want to model courage for her. As I walk through the process of finding a deeper courage within me, I’m inspired to not give up, because she is observing and learning from my actions all the time.
The creative process came as I stepped forward. I started with a picture of our bed in a field and me climbing up steps but had no idea how to create it. I’m not great at drawing like Pascaline, but I did sketch the idea out so Brian could visualize it. He added his thoughts, and then we just got out there with everything and groped around in the dark to create something I so deeply felt but couldn’t actualize. The placement of Pascaline came unexpected, and yet I can’t picture this self-portrait without her.
This is my self-portrait for the beginning of 2014.
A self-portrait can be a whole scene that you set up, like this one, or it can be much simpler and up close of you. There is no right or wrong. There is only now. There is only you. Find a quiet moment this week and reflect on what your self-portrait would be like for the new year.
Cheryl | 2013 1 of 15
Cheryl | 2014 2 of 15
Cheryl Bidleman shares, "Today was the day I was supposed to take my annual self-portrait, and I almost didn't do it. I wasn't feeling well and only had about 30 minutes to do it. But I'm so glad I did it. This is the first self-portrait that I didn't try to make myself look pretty. I took a shower, let my hair dry natural and went for it. I used my favorite scarf that just makes me feel fierce! In this image, I wanted to show what I'm wanting for myself this year. My mantra is 'GO! Lean in and be fierce!' I'm going to keep this image front and center this year to remind me of my mantra!"
Cheryl teaches CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in throughout Greater Seattle, WA area.
Photo Tip: I chose a dark room and used a lamp without the shade as my light source. I placed the light to camera right and moved it around until I liked how the light fell on my face. I also adjusted the light in the room behind me until I got just a bit of light so that I had a little separation between me and the background. I couldn't find my remote device, so I used the self timer on the camera and then jumped in the shot. It took me about a dozen shots, and in the end, I really liked the result. My camera settings were ISO 1600 (the room was dark), f 3.5 and shutter 1/60th.
Tina | 2013 3 of 15
Tina | 2014 4 of 15
Tina Erdman shares, "Being in nature brings me back to my center. Whenever I have a chance, I head to the lakefront for a walk along the beach or to the forest for a hike on the wooded trails. This connection to nature helps me release the stress and demands of everyday life. I look up to the sky or out over the water and just breath. Just be. I feel like this photograph illustrates how I truly am releasing the old me and am moving forward to flourish in 2014. I've worked hard in healing and have finally found peace. Now it's time for me to fly."
Tina teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
*Tina's self portrait in 2013 compared to 2014 leaves me speechless because of her deep transformation with loving and embracing herself. She is one of the bravest women I've ever known. We worked together for several months to find a way for her to share her powerful story for the first time. I invite you to read her moving post, How Photography Brings Healing.
Laura | 2013 5 of 15
Laura | 2014 6 of 15
Laura Swift shares, "As I look in the mirror this morning, I see someone with dreams. Will she share those dreams or keep them to herself? Will she dare to try them and risk failing? Is she feeling confident today? Does she believe in herself? Does she trust herself enough to try?
In this photo, I see an heirloom mirror of the past, a new mirror, and a blank canvas. I see a chance to start again, to re-start, in a new place, in a new year, to live those dreams that have only been whispered.
My goal this year is to look in the mirror more and really see that face looking back at me with those new strands of silvery hair and those wrinkles around that neck! I choose to encourage her with kindness and love, and I will remind her that she is strong and courageous and that dreams are still possible."
Laura teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Newport, VA.
Summie | 2013 7 of 15
Summie | 2014 8 of 15
Summie Roach shares, "As we walk through our life's journey, sometimes we experience unexpected difficult moments, drama within our own family, or maybe just simply the chaos of our daily schedule. We can get so caught up that we don't pause to enjoy our life's journey or notice our growth from it. This image is a reminder for me to be still and reflect on the calm, to listen for the quiet moments. To embrace who I am from the inside so I can stay true to myself even when it may sometimes not be so easy."
Summie teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in San Antonio, TX.
Beth | 2013 9 of 15
Beth | 2014 10 of 15
Beth Wendland shares, "As I get older, I seem to be settling more and more into who I am. Who I want to be. The insecurities of my youth are beginning to fade, though admittedly, some have been replaced with new worries. I love getting (or creating) the opportunity to try new things and have new experiences. So last year, I 'jumped' at the chance to go zip-lining in the Tamarack Canopy.
Suspended in an enormous Ponderosa Pine is a platform. A platform hovering a few hundred feet over the canyon below. This is not the time to deny having your picture taken. If you think I was going to make that jump (plus several more) and not have a picture to prove it, you're nuts!"
A huge thank you to my daughter for taking this photo of me, so that I have evidence that "I did it". :) Love you, sweet daughter!
Photo Tip: To get a photo like this, there won't be a second chance, so take a minute beforehand to make sure your settings are right. Take a couple of photos of the area and use them to make the necessary adjustments. You will want a shutter speed of at least 400 to stop the movement. Also, choose continuous focus so that as the person moves, they continue to stay in focus. If choosing your own settings makes you nervous, choose the little "running man" mode on your camera. If you're using a camera phone, set it to "fast burst" mode.
Neyssa | 2014 11 of 15
*The next five photographers are our new teachers. Since they are new teachers, they don't have a 2013 portrait to compare. But I thought you'd still enjoy the power and vulnerability in their images.
Neyssa Lee shares, "As a mom of two small children, the bright colors of their toys fill my house. It is a busy time in my life, yet it is also a time full of such love and closeness for my family. These were the most important elements for me to capture in my self-portrait. I used a tripod and pointed my camera almost straight down. My daughter's head is the main focus of the image, but I love how I'm in soft blur. By lying on the floor, I knew my kids would surround me, so I didn't have to worry about how to get them into the shot. With remote in hand, I was able to more easily capture the moments with my kids without getting up to push the shutter for each shot."
Neyssa teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Seattle, WA.
Janna | 2014 12 of 15
Janna King shares, "I love how peaceful and alive I look even though everything in my mind was complete chaos. I literally walked out the door after taking this photo to catch a flight! Amidst trying to pack myself and my 8-month-old baby boy for a trip, while prepare my husband to take care of our TWO SETS OF TWIN boys, I stopped to take a photo because... why not?! This is my life!
I love the brick behind me. It represents so much strength that is behind me and "for" me in this new year, including my husband, my boys, and my God. I also see different textures, sizes, colors in the bricks which represent to me all the many facets of my life, where I have been to take me where I'm going.
I love how my face is directed upward, symbolic of how I am constantly looking up and forward for what is to come. Conversely, the lower half and background is blurred to represent all that is passing and which has already happened. This self-portrait makes me feel so hopeful for the new year!
Janna teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Dallas, TX.
Cathy | 2014 13 of 15
Cathy Mores, shares "Creating this image was a complete 360-degree turnaround for me. The last time I was faced with this assignment a few years ago, my self portrait was a clear, mostly-full glass of water on a white background. I was so self-conscious about putting myself in front of the camera. And I didn't want to be 'seen.' While I still struggle with the vulnerability of judgement and self-worth, this image shows the stronger, more confident woman I've become. I'm much more accepting of all the features — and flaws — that I was too afraid to show in the past. It felt really liberating to create this portrait!
Cathy teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Manhattan, KS.
Photo Tip: To set up the image, I placed my camera on a table and used a phone app to trigger my DSLR, with window light across the room to keep the lighting soft.
Jill Ann | 2014 14 of 15
Jill Ann Melton shares, "Lately, I feel like I have neglected to take care of ME. The image represents me being in the background right now, but I am so ready to breakthrough anything standing in my way. It's time to put myself first. It's my time, and I can't wait to see what lies ahead!"
Jill Ann teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Dallas, TX.
Nikki | 2014 15 of 15
Nikki McLaughlin shares, "In this portrait, I am looking upward, my head and heart full of hope and wonder for what blessings and adventures lie ahead… the smirk on my face… I attribute to my sweet (and hilarious) husband who was across the yard trying his best to make me crack up laughing while this was shot."
Nikki teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in the greater Seattle area.
*Me Ra’s newsletter! Get 5 MORE Photo Tips that will Change Your Photos Overnight when You Subscribe to
Confidence Photography Workshops for Women Offered Nationwide. Find one of our wonderful teachers near you! Get to know them in the following posts;
13 Ways to Engage the Photographer in Your Kids (from Me Ra and her two kids!)