Shutterbugs channel their creativity into self-portrait photography in the pandemic

With not many locations or events to capture amid the pandemic, photography enthusiasts are giving the humble selfie a makeover and turning it into art.
Self-portrait is a carefully composed, well-thought-out form of photography where the photographer is also the model.
Self-portrait is a carefully composed, well-thought-out form of photography where the photographer is also the model.
Published on Jun 18, 2021 08:35 PM IST
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By Imana Bhattacharya, New Delhi

More than a year of staying home amid Covid-19 has left most of us with barren social media pages, forcing us to share endless throwbacks, fading sunsets from our windows and photos of that one aesthetic corner in our house to make up for the lack of picturesque moments in our lives.

However, true creativity always finds a way. Many photographers and influencers have started to explore the art of self-portraits. Not to be confused with selfies, self-portrait photography is a form of carefully composed, well-thought-out photography where the photographer is also the model. To them, self-portraits are not only a creative way to improve their social media feed, but also an act of self-care that improves self-esteem.

Ladakh-based photographer and filmmaker, Kritika Singh Bisen, 23, was always fascinated by the idea of self-portraits, but started pursuing it seriously only after the first lockdown last year. “I only started taking self-portraits regularly when I was at home in the first lockdown. Before the pandemic began, my job required a lot of travelling that inevitably gave me access to beautiful locations. However, things changed as soon as Covid-19 came into our lives. I had to find creativity in a limited space. I was surprised by the magic of the mundane,” shares Bisen, who also creates Instagram reels sharing her journey of mastering the art.

Self-portrait photography has always been the ‘introvert’s choice’ to get out of a creative block, affirms 22-year-old Kolkata-based social media content creator, Daizy Yadav. “The lockdown came with a lot of mental pressure and also a slump in new content for my blog. I have always been a little shy and had to find quiet locations for outdoor shoots. So self-portrait photography started as a way to express myself and also cheer myself up when I felt low. But the best part is that I can take my own pictures and tell my story without having to pose awkwardly in front of someone else,” says Yadav, who runs a fashion blog on styling and recycling outfits.

But how do these photographers find inspiration, while being cooped at home, amid all the restrictions? Bisen explains, “I felt compelled to look at every corner with a new set of creative eyes. I started looking at every piece of fabric, every artefact on my showcase differently. I started looking at everything as a prop, a detail in my photograph, a backdrop.”

Self-portrait photography also helps people boost their self-esteem. “It’s exhilarating to see my imagination turn into reality. Capturing my thoughts/feelings and emotions is very freeing. It is a form of self-love for me,” reveals Yadav. Echoing a similar sentiment, Bisen adds, “Self-portraits allowed me to find parts of myself that are beautiful. It allowed me to gather the courage to look at myself in every picture frame in all my imperfections and still notice the exact emotion that I am trying to communicate.”

Clicking self-portraits, like any other form of photography, is a skill that requires practice. But neither do you require expensive pieces of equipment or formal photography training. “You don’t need expensive gadgets to start, really. I began taking my photos with my low-range Android phone and still, I use my phone to take all my pictures. You just need to love the process of creating,” advises 21-year-old Richa Shahi, a content creator and influencer from Haldwani (Uttarakhand), whose work was featured in Take Your Selfie Seriously, a book by Australian self portrait photographer and filmmaker Sorelle Amore. Bisen believes the most important part of the process is showing up. “It’s never too late to start something new. You will find inspiration anywhere if you look for it. So just show up every day and keep practising,” shares Bisen.

Looking to learn this skill to jazz up your social media accounts too? Here are some tips for you to start:

Experiment with the equipment you have before investing in anything new. A camera or a smartphone with a self-timer can be enough to start off.

Conceptualising is the most important part of the process. Your photos should have a story or theme behind them. Thinking about your wardrobe, angles and background are the next steps.

You can find the perfect background by paying more attention to the parts of your home and your everyday surroundings that you have become used to. Your garden, rooftop or even your bookshelf can serve the purpose. You can also try hanging a bedsheet to give you a blank canvas to pose in front of and use things like plants and books as props.

If you’re not sure of how to pose for yourself, then try posing in front of the mirror for practice. Once you feel comfortable in your own skin, the results will be naturally better.

This exercise does not have to be for your social media only. Self-portraits can be therapeutic personal projects or a fun hobby.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021