Sunday, April 12, 2015

Being Your Own Beloved

On February 14 - Valentine's Day - I started an on-line self-portraiture photography course that would forever change my photography and my life. The course, Be Your Own Beloved, is taught by the wonderful, kind and compassionate Vivienne McMaster.


Most women that sign up for the course do so because they have negative body and self esteem issues that they are trying desperately to conquer through the help of Vivienne's gentle guiding hand and self-portraiture photography. This is not the reason that I signed up for the class. Over the past two years I have done a ton of self-image work with the help of my personal trainer, and honestly I feel pretty about where I stand. There are always the little things that plague every woman; I would love to lose ten pounds along with most of the female population. I wish my hair would grow faster due to a correcting, super short hair cut I got in September to get rid of layers that are very bad for curly hair. Currently my hair seems to be growing at the pace of a snail, and every six weeks when I go, my stylist seems to cut more off than she leaves. We are still trying to get the shortest layer caught up with the rest of them. Aside from those little things I am in a good place. 


So if I didn't take Vivienne's class for self-image help, why did I take it. I needed a new photographic challenge. I needed to do something that was completely different and that would push me out of my comfort zone. February was a long, cold, snowy month here in Michigan. I had been working diligently on my new photography project "A Year Beside the Water" since the beginning of January, but honestly I was getting very tired of snow and ice being my only subjects in the photos. I needed a new and exciting subject, and I guess that new and exciting subject was going to be me. Adding myself to photos of ice and snow would definitely make them more visually interesting. 


Vivienne started us off slow and gentle, encouraging us to take a photo of our first step in the self-portraiture journey on Day One. From there we slowly progressed until we were willing to put our faces in the frame and then eventually our whole body, that task being the hardest for some of us. I am not new to self-portraiture. I took a couple of on-line classes a few years ago but I never seemed to progress beyond photos of my feet and the way lower half of my body. 


In Vivienne's class all that changed. Within the first week I was putting my face in the frame, even if it was uncomfortably placed there. 

After that first week though, after getting those head shots done, I fell head-over-heels in love with the creative process of self-portraiture. Everyday for 28 days Vivienne would send a creative self-portraiture prompt to my email inbox and my creative mind would immediately start churning out ideas. What could I do for that prompt that was fun, funny or different. 


My favorite prompt was "focus and blur". This is a technique that I will use many times over the coming days, months and years. I had an idea to use these shoes and this skirt for a shot, but it wasn't until the focus and blur prompt that the shot became crystal clear. I still want to tweak this one a little but overall I am very happy with how it turned out. 


Self-portraiture work has greatly enhanced my photography skills. It forces me to find the best light, the right angles, sharp focus, but it has also made me think to put on foundation before I go out of the house, to wear some of the cute clothes in my closet, to actually style my hair into more than the scrunched curls look. It forces me to practice and to be patient, to problem solve and come up with creative solutions. I learned to enjoy the process and to have fun. For all my work I have collected some pretty good photos of myself. Photos that I can use to add to my blog, update my social media profile pictures and to share with class in our Flickr group.

Even though class is over, my self-potraiture work has only begun. I love being able to finally include myself in my stories. The human element speaks volumes. 


I have a long list of creative self-portraiture shots that I want to tackle over the coming months.

I would highly encourage anyone interested in self-portraiture or someone who needs to work on some self love to check out Vivienne's class. The next round starts June 1st. You will be greatly blessed by the openness of the other class participants, and by starting to see yourself with love. Or like me, find all those things plus a great creative challenge that will carry on long past your time in class, and you will finally start including yourself in your story. 

25 comments:

  1. A great new path for you to follow Sarah, I love the image of you on the bed, and of course your boots and the barn. I'm looking forward to seeing more of you !

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  2. You are so very creative at finding wonderful ways to take self portraits! My favorite is front of the books, but they're all so lovely!

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  3. I really like the one of you in the library. Now I am wondering are you using a tripod with the DSLR or your phone? Hard to tell these days... Especially the one with the barn.

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  4. It was an adventure and a joy to take this class along with you, Sarah. Even though, like you, I'm generally comfortable with my physical self, the daily prompts, Vivienne's loving encouragement, and interaction with class participants led me to see myself in a different and much happier way. I can't put the reasons into words nearly as well as you have, but it definitely changed me. I'd highly recommend it to anyone, whether they ever intend to publish a self-portrait or not, and especially if they think they are "not photogenic."

    I've watched your self-portrait skills grow by leaps and bounds, and these are wonderful examples! I'm looking forward to seeing all the ways you'll be putting yourself into the picture as time goes on.

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  5. Beautiful, inside & out. Love the shots & your blog header! You've inspired me yet again my friend!

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  6. You have inspired me to look at this class! I am never never in shots and looks as if I was not even there.... What a beautiful chance to see your own beauty. Your shots are amazing!

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  7. Great post Sarah! I've always been one to avoid my picture being taken. I might think about taking this class. I really like the focus and blur technique for these shots with my favorite being the boots and barn. Nice work!

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  8. Very encouraging - and while tempting, I'm still not there --- plus, I suck at selfies; perpetually having that deer in the headlights expression. I have, none-the-less, taking more pictures with me in it for my children's sake, just not ready to share.

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  9. I adore you Sarah & am so glad you decided to take the class...and am seriously swooning seeing all your incredible images together. Totally proud of you for pushing out of your comfort zone and getting your whole self in the photo too! You are amazing and thank you SO much for your sweet words about the class and encouraging people to join in...it truly means so much to me!

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  10. I LOVE the "focus and blur" shot and the self-portrait with the open notebook. You've inspired me to get on with my own selfies. "Be your own beloved" - <3

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  11. This is such a great application of your photography skills, Sarah. Inspiring. Gives me thought for how to take photos on my Colorado Trail trip. I love the one on the bed and my favorite is of you and your journal with the books behind. You look sparkling in that photo!! :-)

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  12. Such a beautiful post Sarah! Truly. Love the shot with books behind you. Love them all really. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. What a great idea--including one's self in the story. Your photos are great.

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  14. How fun! Your photos are awesome! I finally just stopped getting my haircut and it does seem to finally be growing! I end up going about every 6 months for a trim.

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  15. Great post Sarah . . . and I loved the self portraiture class idea . . . Your results are wonderful . . .
    I really liked the blur and clear . . . (I think you said it differently) . . . That one really "spoke" to me . . .
    (My children and some of the grandchildren have VERY curly hair . . . I will pass on your tips . . . )

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  16. How fun! So excited for you to have another avenue to explore. I enjoy Viv too. :)

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  17. Well let me just say how awesome this is. and you are so photogenic. I never used to be so afraid of the camera (even modeled a bit when I was younger)...now I'm petrified! lol I think my fav is the one at the table with the books behind you, (love) and the one with your boots (I think I could handle that one, but I'm afraid I may have trouble getting up there) Great post Sarah! Sorry I've been a little MIA from here, life has just been a little overwhelming lately.

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  18. Great photos! I really love the one of you in front of the book shelves. The amount of vibrancy in the colors is wonderful. Good for you on all accounts here!

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  19. Your self portraits are truly wonderful and creative. I love the 'focus and blur' image as well as the tractor image... and the bookshelves behind you is awesome too. Your words are a great advertisement for the class!

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  20. I still love that shoe image! Iron makes my hair and nails grow really fast. I have to take it daily, but I sure notice when I forget for a while.

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  21. I still totally love that shoe shot! More ideas, huh? How about a nylon stocking trailing out of the picture? I love your new header and I just signed up for her double exposure class.

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  22. What an amazing process you've started. I look forward to seeing more of you.

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  23. I always think too much about self-portraits and somehow always manage to look unnatural - either smiling too much or not enough. Too plastic and posed. You look so natural - I enjoyed studying your photos. I can't decide whether a class like that would be fun or torture for me!

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  24. Wonderful! I think I need to take this class...

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  25. Sarah, I'm late to the party, but so glad I didn't miss this post! I love seeing you - learning about you - and learning with you. Like you, I've been working with a personal trainer over the last 2 years and I've made lots of changes - both inside and out. I'm feeling strong and my confidence and self-esteem are much improved. And so this project/class sounds fascinating, and I really might like to try it out! Thank you for helping me to see myself in my own best light - and for sharing!

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Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)