The Art of the Self Portrait.

I’m wondering–by show of hands–who loooooves to take their camera, turn it around, and snap a picture of themselves to put in the family photo album. Raise them high if you like to!

Crap. I can’t see your hands…a downside to the blog. No visual contact.

Well, I’ll take a guess, and say that approximately 0% of you reading this actually like to do it.

It seems to be a common thread amoung my woman friends–I don’t know if it applies across the board to dudes, too–this strange uncomfortable feeling that overtakes us when a camera is pointed in our direction. Especially when we’re the ones pointing the camera.

We’re used to presenting lots of things to the world: Here’s my child. Here’s my husband. Here’s my cooking. Here’s my home. Here’s my work. These are all ways for us to share ourselves. But to say, “Here I am!” is a little trickier. Self Portraits leave no room for interpretation or wiggle room. It’s simply us, BAM, take it or leave it.

Often times we leave it. I have very little pictures of my mom and I together, and the ones I do have I treasure. It dawned on me sometime last year that my kids weren’t going to have any pictures of us together, because I was always behind the camera. Which is where I liked to be. But I started thinking about what they would have to remember me by, not in a morose way, but in an introspective way. I wanted them to have pictures showing how happy I was as a mom, and how much I enjoyed our time together. So I tiptoed out from behind and put myself in a few pictures. A token to show them that we were a great team when they were little!


I was startled at how uncomfortable I felt. What the internal messages were that I was telling myself…”I take pictures of interesting things…not just me! Pictures should be of special things…not just me! The focus of a photograph should be something I love…not just me!” I’ve always prided myself of being pro-girl to my girls, and trying to model self acceptance in any form to them. This was the opposite, so I embarked on a “52 weeks of Self Portraits” journey–one self portrait a week for a year.

I laughed, I cried, I slowly worked out a lot of hidden issues having to do with lots of touchy feely self acceptance things that could have been an episode on Oprah!

I decided to continue it for another year, this time encouraging other women to join me in a flickr group “52 Weeks of Bam!” And join they have! Strong, amazing, uniquely special, feminine, vulnerable, kick ass women….who are all freaking out about taking pictures of themselves. It feels indulgent, boastful, and a little shameful to say honestly, “Here I Am! Look At Me!” and isn’t that sad?! We all have a story, independent of who our kids are, who we’re married to, what we do every day, and what we get involved in. Beneath all that, there is just us…our own feelings, our own needs, our own stories. Those should be shared and encouraged.


So, I encourage you. Turn the camera around this week, if you’re a picture taker. Even better, take it and share it on the flickr group. Be vulnerable, be happy, be sad, be whatever you feel. You’re worth it.


31 Responses

  1. You inspired me & I started today! Thanks for the push.

    Also thanks for writing about “Raising Resilient Children”. Excellent book!

  2. Lovely idea!! 😀

  3. oh what have I gotten into! lol
    You made such a point about having pics of us with our kids…To be honest, I have very few pics of me doing happy things with the kids – I do have couple of me and maddie, matthew hes not a camara kid so hes hard to get a photo of…I would love ot have one of my coaching my son soccer – I have a bunch of my hubby coaching, but nothing of me with the ball…those would have been some fun shots!

  4. Thanks Tiff, Even my hubby was asking the same thing after I posted some photos of our recent trip. Didn’t you come with us ? He asked . And that was true. There was not even a single picture of mine good enough to be posted.

    Will follow your 52 weeks of BAM !

    • you should start taking pics of yourself along with me 🙂 And even your worst picture will be something your kids will treasure, so no throwing pics away or deleting them!

  5. Ive joined the group in a moment of I-can-do-this but I am so nervous and way, way, way out of my comfort zone.

    SP is simply not me. Eeek.

    • Eek! I know the feeling! I was literally brought to tears so many times when trying to do a SP. But when you work through that, then it’s a great way of self expression. And then BAM, you’re posting pictures of yourself in a bikini and not even caring! Oh wait, that was me… lol.

      Glad you joined, you’ll see you’re not alone!

  6. Not 0% because I’m one of those women who turns the camera around and points it at myself. Only reason is because I want my kids to grow up with pictures of me! My husband has a fancy-schmancy camera and very rarely points it at me and even more rarely, me with the kids. Now we have a bigger problem…so very few pictures of all of us together. =/ Need to remedy that.

    • sounds like you need to let your hubby know it’s time to use his fancy schmancy camera on you!

  7. I have done a 52 weeks flickr group project about 4 times and failed, I don;t think I ever made it past 12 weeks. I did manage to document my last pregnancy pretty well though 🙂 but i am inspired to try a 52 weeks again! Thanks!

  8. I hardly have any photos of me with my kids…I think of that often. We are usually off on our own so noone to take a pic of us…and my sons are at the age where when they get the camera in hand they only want to take pictures of butts. Booties. Buttocks. Rears. 😉

    • butt shots…that sounds familiar…it seems they never outgrow it, as that’s what hubby takes pictures of me when he has the camera, LOL.

      I love the arms length selfies you take with your boys 🙂

  9. I am trying to get better at this. I want more photos of me, but also me with my family, and my partner. I have actual photos where my mother cut herself out of the photo, the resultant hand shape carved out of my waist in some photos. Now that my mother is gone, I really think about this. I don’t want that for my kids. Now I just need a better camera and a tripod and timer I will actually use. Joined the flickr pool! I always admire your self-portraits, Tiff!

    • Amy, I’m not going to lie, the mental image of a picture of yourself with your mom having cut every part of her out of, is really sad to me! Forget the better camera/tripod/timer…just hold out what you have at arms length, have the kids crowd in close, and snap away! ❤ ❤ ❤

  10. Thanks, Tiff! I’m not much on using cameras. I had one I liked, and it got stolen. The one I got next, I never learned how to use properly. I don’t have as many photos of my son as I’d like… Maybe if I try to do this, it’ll get me using the camera more.

    I love this post. If I were still teaching women’s studies, I’d add it to the reading list, and I’d add this project to their list of choices for their semester project.

    • Sue, you are a renaissance woman…math AND women studies?!

      We’re going to have to get together soon, so you can talk about your interesting life and I can teach you how to use your camera! 😉

  11. Okay, I accept the challenge!

  12. your words about having photos with my children, for them to have later on is one of the biggest reasons I love the selfie. I LOVE pictures of my mom from days before me and days after me and days with me. They are indeed treasures and I want my kids to have those little treasures too. being behind the camera is fantastic, but being infront is a challenge.

    thank you for asking us to step up to that challenge, to find the treasure in ourselves.

  13. I’m in! maybe my new haircut is making me brave.

  14. Just found your blog and I am enjoying it. Really am interested and intrigued by the idea of one self-portrait a week for a year. Think it might be good for my soul, my creativity, and my children. Thanks. Peace, Nicki

  15. […] More Ms. Nice Gal! Posted on June 17, 2010 by childsplay It is the fourth week of my weekly self portrait challenge. Over 80 brave women (and men!) have decided to take part in the experience and have joined the 52 […]

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