As I come to a close of my year long self portrait challenge, I am doing a bit of looking back and assessing how I have grown as a photographer. I am debating about what, if anything, I want to do as a personal project in 2014. This year’s 365 is the third in a row, that’s 1, 096 consecutive days of photographing something- whoa. Both 2011 and 2012 were not self portrait specific, but a challenge and growing experience all the same. What pushed me to attempt a self portrait 365, you might ask (and some days I have asked myself)? Two names come immediately to mind, Kristin and Meredith the creators of NowYou Workshops.
I had taken the “mini” Now You Workshops in 2012 (Now You, The Beginning and Now You, Digging Deeper) and felt a huge shift happening deep down inside. When they announced a 52 of You, I jumped in with both feet. I knew that I would draw inspirations from the weekly prompts they offered up on Monday mornings. Even if my daily inspiration was low, I would have a theme to fall back on and use. I also knew that I would have a group of women on a similar journey that I could connect with and feel safe with throughout the year. It sounds a little over the top, especially if you haven’t done any self portrait work before, but I know that this type of artistic expression saved me. They kept me from completely looking myself as I slipped deeper into a hole of depression. I was clawing for a way out and here is the truth:
The photographs I have taken of myself have allowed me to see that I was and am still here, that I was okay even when I didn’t feel like I was okay. The group held space for me when I asked and let me know that I was not alone in my journey. Turning the camera around let me explore and translate my internal feelings in a way that words wouldn’t have worked and didn’t work for me at the time.
This week marks the 51st of the 52 weeks in 2013. What better way to end my year long journey then to have a conversation with Kristin and Meredith about the Workshops and self portraiture in general? I hope you enjoy the interview and are encouraged to check out 2014’s offering of 52 of You. And maybe, just maybe you could be a lucky winner of a class pass! Leave a comment after you have read through what these beautiful woman have to say, and tell us why a year of self portraits is something you want for 2014.
Kristin and Meredith, Your openness and huge hearts have changed so many of us for the better. I have made amazing friends and partners in “crime” this year because of your classes. With love and gratitude I say, thank you, a million times thank you.
Why self portraits? Why not food, landscape, wedding photography? What made you choose to lead a class in this particular vein of the art?
Kristin’s thoughts… I did not start out a self portrait artist. I like so many women photographers began shooting my life at home. The everyday moments, the moments of my children and loved ones. Then one day I realized I was the one always holding the camera, and I mean ALWAYS. I was present for all those moments I was documenting but proof of me IN those moments was missing. By holding the camera I had complete control, and could hide. If by some chance someone did snap a shot of me, I could delete it at will. I was erasing my own history. That was the turning point. I knew I needed to begin getting in the picture, and I knew it started with me.
Meredith’s thoughts… There are a thousand answers to this question. Sometimes I know exactly why I gravitated towards self portraiture and sometimes I shake my head at where this path has led me. Years ago, I picked up my camera and began pointing it at myself because I was going through a big transition (from new mother to single mother, separation to divorce, and my mother’s terminal illness.) Life at this time hit me like a ton of bricks and I used my camera as a healing tool. Perhaps I needed to see that I was still standing. Perhaps I needed to see what grief looked like (and later, what strength looked like) and I was the only adult in the house to document. If I wanted pictures of myself with my son, I had to use the self timer or sit him in my lap and hold my camera at arms reach. It was very important for me to have pictures of the both of us together, as we came through this part of our life. I never thought about self portraiture really, I was just on my own path of rediscovery.
Teaching a class about self portraiture came later. Years later. Maybe because Kristin and I both (simultaneously, separately, from thousands of miles in distance) came to this same conclusion: we saw the power of self portraiture and how it was more than just a photo, but it was a new way of seeing. Self portraiture became self care. And Now You Workshops was born.
Do you have an all time favorite self portrait? What is it that makes it powerful, important, and true?
Kristin’s thoughts… Oh goodness that’s hard. I have many favorites, but I think the most powerful self portrait I ever shot and shared was one of me crying. It was a real moment. Real tears. Red nose. All of it. We tend to focus the camera on ourselves when we feel our best, when we are smiling and happy, but what about all the other times. The hard days, the scary days, the sick days, the sad days? Those for me are the most powerful. Sure I love a pretty self portrait just like anyone else, but the power in allowing oneself to be vulnerable and let down your guard, those mean so much more to me.
Meredith’s thoughts… I have many different favorites, and attached to all of them are the stories of their creation. I love the moments nearly as much as I love the end results. For years I documented the struggle. It was easy for me to pick up the camera and click the moment of struggle, grief, loss, and tears. But what was hard for me was documenting the joy. This photo is one of my favorites because it was a shifting point for me in my life. It was where the balances started tipping towards light and laughter. This was where I found love and trust and strength … and it absolutely blew me away. I wondered for days about how I could best create an image to portray this feeling I was experiencing in my heart… and this photo was the result. “Feel it All” is what I called it because that’s what was true. The image still makes me smile (years later) and that makes me happy too.
What have you learned from leading a group of women in the self portrait journey?
Kristin’s thoughts… That we are all so very much alike. We are all different shapes, colors, ages, but oh how we all just want to be seen and heard and loved… I love that. And if NOW YOU can be a catalyst for women seeing themselves in a kinder way, it is all worth it.
Meredith’s thoughts… I’ve learned that we all have a story to tell. I’ve learned that self portraiture actually has very little to do with how you look and has everything to do with how you feel. We are all the same heart. And when you gather women together, the love and respect magnifies and true friendships bloom.
How do your families react to you taking and to your self portraits in general?
Kristin’s thoughts… My family is pretty used to my camera at all times. They are nonplussed by my “gig”. they laugh at me when I set up the self timer and run into the shot. They are still young enough that I am not embarrassing them in the moment. That may change, but I hope as they grow older they will learn more about NOW YOU and what our message is.
Meredith’s thoughts… For most of my self portrait journey, my family consisted of myself and my son. Since his birth, the camera was always around, so he never gave it another thought. It was simply what I did. Now that my family has grown (and includes children who did not grow up with a photographer in the family until now) it’s a little bit different. I use my iPhone for a lot of photography now. I found that using my iPhone has less of an impact on the moment while photographing the children in my home (they were more comfortable with the smaller iPhone than with my nikon dslr) and so these days I continue my self portrait journey mostly with my iPhone (partially out of respect for their space and partially out of convenience for me.) They don’t seem to notice if I’m taking self portraits and they even like playing along and getting into the frame for shots of all of us together, and the iPhone has a certain normalcy to it that keeps them in the moment.
Who influences you or inspires you in your journey of the SP?
Kristin’s thoughts… All the women in our classes inspire me each and every day. They get real, are brave and bold, silly and fun, and oh so beautiful. They inspire me and push me to go bigger and braver.
Meredith’s thoughts… The Now You Community is a major source of inspiration for me. Not just photographically speaking, but with the bigger picture as well. Our cameras are our tools but what we share through images is much more about sisterhood than photo gear.
I think Self Portraits, or “selfies” get a really bad rap. How do you defend the art?
Kristin’s thoughts… Well it certainly has become a cliché word in today’s society, but I still feel so very strongly that women as a whole are deleting their own proof. We are either hiding behind our cameras, or deleting the shots. What will there be of us for the generations that come after us? Very little if anything at all. How incredibly sad that is. I have boxes and photo albums stuffed full of film photos of my mother, my grandmothers, and me as a child. They are treasures. But with the age of digital, all that changed. We no longer have those beautiful beloved prints to hold in our hands. And if we continue to stay out of the picture there will be nothing to show of us one day… It hit me so hard it just really became a mission and passion. I like to say “for proof not pretty” and I stand by that. It is NOT about vanity at all, not one bit. It’s all about this is me, the me right now, and that is worthy. I am worthy. And so are YOU.
Meredith’s thoughts… Self portraiture has been a medium of self reflection since the mid- 1400’s when artists began painting themselves on canvas. How we choose to define ourselves is a big part of the self portrait journey. How we look inward… how we choose to define beauty or strength is all part of the process. “Selfies” are definitely more common these days than in previous years, and the iPhone and social media markets I’m sure have something to do with that. I believe in the power of self portraiture. I began taking self portraits not for anyone but myself. I think if enough women (and men) show their authentic selves, their everyday beauty, and their truth of being (to themselves or to a group of friends)… we as a society could grow and possibly redefine many social standards on what is deemed beautiful and human.
beautifully said and amazing self portraits. thanks for sharing a piece of yourself with us.
a year of self portraits would be good for me in 2014. as we work to adopt our twin sons, we’re having constant conversations about our family and what we want it to be about. I think I’ll become a mother for the first time in 2014, and I realize I don’t know even a little bit how life-changing that will be.
wonderfully done, vanessa. great questions and of course, thoughtful responses. i love the legacy k and m are building in their classes. xo
I really could use something to “bump me up”, so to speak. I’m in a real rut in my life and I’m so afraid to express myself out of fear of what others might think! I just want to be ME, yet I hold back out of fear and I’m just so sick of it! I’m hoping to start some sort of year long project, one that requires discipline and pushing myself to step out of the comfortable, boring box I’ve shoved myself into! I truly admire Kristin and Meredith and what they do!
I so agree with everything that Kristin and Meredith have said. I am always the one holding the camera—and have taken thousands of photos of my family and friends over the years. It has gotten to the point that It is “just expected of me.” In others eyes, if I don’t have my camera with me—the world crumbles. I can now see that a change needs to e made–I do exist–and I need to prove it.
As my children edge their way, gracefully or not, into adolescence, the art of self portraiture is going to be my bedrock, keeping me seen and reminding me that I am here despite the drama and angst going on around me. Keeping my balance as a human being, a woman, and then a mother is vitally important to me. I completely agree, Art Saves! I know it is going to be a big part of saving, preserving, and uplifting me. xo
2013 was one of the hardest years of my life and I have absolutely no evidence I existed in it, so I very much admire your decision to turn to self portraiture to keep from losing yourself Vanessa. It’s an incredibly strong choice, and knowing Kristin I can’t think of a better person to spend 52 weeks being supported that way. 🙂 This course giveaway will totally make someone’s 2014!
Your reflections are very moving ladies.. Thank you for sharing your vulnerabilities and strength and perseverance.. And for working to change how we see ourselves.. Xo
“The group held space for me” – love that phrase. Your 52 week long project has been an inspiration for me this past year. Brave, bold and beautiful. Every time I see your pictures, I think I should do this too! I appreciate what Meredith says about the history of self portraiture and the current craze of selfies. No matter our chosen medium, I believe we who create do so in an effort to discover ourselves.
If I decide I want to spend $99.00 I will do this. I am pretty much through self discovery, but I am not now depressed either. I do strongly believe that art saves. And a broad spectrum of women including aging is important. Your photos were wonderful.
I have delighted in seeing no less than your transformation from the start of the year through it, Vanessa. And I know from experience that as much as the self portraiture helped, it was a very very brave leap you made to begin.
No need t enter me in the drawing, just have to put in my plug for these two wonderful women and their course. They will lead you gently, and take you places you could never imagine, and you will make friends along the way. If you think you should, please trust me, you should!
It was you, Vanessa, who introduced me to these fabulous women and gave me that nudge, shove, just-do-it-already push into signing up for my 1st Now You class last Spring. Life gets hectic with two kids running around me constantly and that class gave me the “it’s okay” that I needed to take a few moments or and hour each week(yes, I said week) to focus on me and me alone. Would love the opportunity to dive in again with the new class and breathe in all that this new year has to reveal.
I have so marveled at the tiny moments when I sneak away to peek at what some of these women are doing, women I now consider my friends. I’ve been following my dreams these past two years and find myself in a beautiful place of calm. What better time to photograph, after so much effort. The calm after the storm.
Carry on, inspiring women. You amaze me.
I turned 50 in October. Now more than ever, I feel strongly it’s my time to discover ‘me’; to be present in my own life. Perhaps this is just the thing.
I turned around recently and realized I was one more day from becoming invisible. And something in me started to fight…to come back. This course feels like a life line.
Wonderful interview. I would love to go on the Now You journey.
Authentic and open, bravo Vanessa. Exactly what now|you draws out of each participant. Authenticity and openness…can’t go wrong surrounded by such a safe community.
wow, what a great read to have coffee with this morning, thank you. I feel when the photographer is ready to be open to it and undestand fully, that the person having the experience is always the one taking the images. It can be joyous to very scary why we shoot the way we do and what we shoot, wrapping yourself around that is therapy…wonderful opening here for many, thanks for sharing.
Last year i started taking self portraits but only of my feet or hiding behind somewhere. I would love this journey to come fully in to self-acceptance, also as a newly single mother to a highly & constantly expressive 6 year-old boy, who i hope (one day through my own example) never loses his own innate self-acceptance.
I follow both Meredith and Kristin on IG and love reading the thoughts behind their beautiful, inspiring self-portraits. I need me some of that.
I think the power of self portraits is…huge. I should have better words but I don’t. Taking the time to see yourself in all the many different ways that are possible can open doors you never imagined….but also smacks down the “I’m not photogenic” story and gives you a chance to see yourself as others really do. I would *love* to do this course.
What beautiful words these women have! I have followed both photographers for years, and I would love to spend a year being inspired and growing through self portraites. I do take photos of myself randomly and photos with my daughter but I’d love to grow with the class/group. Meredith’s answer to the last question really resonates with me. Self portraites are a way for a person to see themselves, redefine what beauty means, and discover something new.
Oh, this is so great. I always think our family photo albums look like they document a single dad with three kids and a random woman who pops up a couple of times a year…time to start documenting myself!
Great interview! I just started taking some daily self portraits and would love some support (and ideas!).
This has been a year of so much change for my soul,actually. I was able to do Kristin & Meredith’s Now You mini workshop & loved it. Right after it ended, my sister lost her baby immediately after giving birth. We have been holding each other up & together every day for 5 months now. I think to be able to turn my camera on myself to see who I am now would be interesting. Because I am a changed person. I don’t know who though.
I am so inspired by this project and by seeing parts of your journey with it, Vanessa.
These past few months, I feel like I can really FEEL something awakening inside of me, this need and desire to connect with this woman I’ve become while I was busy focusing on being a wife and mother. I am intrigued by who she is, excited to get to know her. This project seems like a beautiful way to explore her.
I am taking the Now You class and even as it comes to a close in the next week, I feel like I didn’t even get to touch the surface of my self portrait journey. The class has taught me so much and has began to make me feel more comfortable in front of the camera. Truly grateful!
Interesting post. You brought up some new ideas about selfies that I hadn’t thought about before (including the comment about artists painting their own portraits). Great food for thought.
I rarely take selfies, but the class would be an interesting push to try it and see where it leads.
Your openess and sharing here is beautiful. I took this class in 2013, if was a gift! Taking and sharing weekly self portraits with a group of women of all different ages, on different paths, in different parts of the world has been humbling, supportive, inspiring, eye opening, creative, soul searching, fun…so many things. I stumbled on this quite by accident and I’m so glad I did! x
I love the idea of a year of weekly self-portraits. I’ve been curious about the Now You workshops for awhile now. Maybe 2014?
Such beautiful work!
Art saves…so true! I always remember what Kristin said at oasis, it’s not always about the pretty…it’s about the proof. That has always stuck with me.
Beautiful post. I’m not sure exactly what a year of self portraits would mean for me, but I am looking forward to the challenge, hopefully it will be with the Now You workshop.
beautiful. all three of you are inspirational, strong, real, beautiful, talented women. i’m honored to be with you on this self-portraiture and life path.
Maybe this is what I need! I am a 55 yr old divorced mom with 4 sons – 36, 31 and twin 17 year olds (who are obviously still at home)… and a most gorgeous 5 month Granddaughter. I have been a mom with children at home for 36 years since there is such a wide gap in ages. I’m not quite sure who I am, outside of “mom”…
6 weeks ago, my brother took his own life at the age of 54. And here’s the thing – I have these fits of crying – maybe it’s a combination of the grief and the “first” holiday, but I’m pretty much dismissed as being “crabby” (yes I know, they are teens)
I’ll go on record sounding like a martyr, but thru this, I found that I’m the maid, the bank, the gas station, Santa Clause – not a sad woman expressing some grief.
I guess we sometimes set ourselves up for it – don’t we want them to all be secure and happy?? But then when this sadness hit, I found I wasn’t really a person here, just the store manager – and that made me more sad! Although the Mom-side of me will always be here and be dominant, maybe this is a good way to start to figure out who my non-mom side might be!
Regardless – sounds kind of cool! 🙂
I loved reading all of this and like many other women, I was always the one taking the photos and so was never in family shots. Suddenly I could see this gap in every gathering I was in. Doing the first Workshop with Kristen and Meredith did something to get over that and I’m looking forward to continuing the journey and would like to do the ‘Going Deeper’ workshop when it comes up again!
Wonderful words and images. So many of us feel much more comfortable behind the camera and so exposed if the lens is turned on us. I’m thinking a lot about self-portraiture for 2014. Taking a journey of my own, not necessarily to share anywhere on social media, but an exploration of who I really am.
As an older woman I tend to skip over discussions about self portraits–who wants to see a pic of woman past her prime? Not a good attitude I know, but what I feel. Maybe this class is just what I need to get over that.
Beautiful and inspiring.
vanessa, meredith and kristin, you three are such inspirations to me. you are such strong beautiful women. what a lovely interview and project. i can’t afford to do the workshop, but i am considering starting a 52 week self-portraiture project in 2014 anyway. 2013 was a year of breakdowns and fresh starts for me. my life has changed in almost every way. i’ve decided that 2014 is my fresh start. it’s my ME year, where I redirect myself with intention. so i am definitely considering this project and would love to win a spot in it. thank you for sharing yourselves with us. it means so much!
oh please add my name into the hat.
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Great interview and lovely read for the Christmas days. Even though I wasn’t part of the Now You crowd this year, I saw the group spirit with friends who joined. Keep up your great work!
Love these ladies!!!
such a rewarding + challenging proposition – weekly self portraits. your course looks incredible.
this is really beautiful. i’m a fan of meredith’s work over at habit and love what they’re doing. as a mom, i find i’m never in any of the photographs, both because i’m the one taking the pictures and because i feel self conscious, almost embarrassed when i am photographed. need to break out of this rut. lovely work, ladies!
I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to take the NOW YOU workshop in 2014. 2013 was an incredibly life changing year for me as my father took his own life and I turned forty shortly thereafter. I have almost no photos from the year of my family of twin boys because I was often so depressed and didn’t feel like picking up my camera, let alone getting out of bed. I want and need to find myself again and heal through my photography. The workshop would be the ideal avenue for this self-discovery and a way to tell my story.
Very well stated. I struggle with self portraits . . . and yet when I finally take the time to pull one off, I’m always surprised at the results and what I see staring back at me.
What an honest class. I delete images of myself all the time. I like these words and spirit of the project. Thank you.
Wonderful story! I’m curious what a year of “me-photos” would do for myself. So I would really like to join this e-course!
I have folders of photos of…my feet. In shoes, barefoot, in heavy rainboots…but always my feet, a reminder to ground myself and be where I am.
I think it might be time to make my way up a little bit. I think I might finally be ready to stand tall.
I know it is time to get honest with myself and acknowledge my worthiness that for some reason I generally avoid. A year dedicated to me being seen is just the saving grace I need.
I have always looked longingly at this e-course…it looks like it would be both very enlightening and lots of fun!
Jan 5th will mark my 39th year, and a year to 40. The course starts on the 6th, the day after the start of my year. This will be a big one.
40 has always been kind of a looming and curious birthday for me. My mother took it really hard, and I remember her 39th year was awful for her and, consequently, for me too.
I have vowed to make my year to 40 significant, introspective, and most importantly funl. I am embarking on a new era of me: on being more present and awake, on taking care of my body and digging into my Self. This will be a year of a lot of change for me, in so many delightful ways.
52 of me is just the ticket to get me on my way.
Yes, art saves. This was my first year attempting a 52 project and I would love to keep the momentum going!
everything in this article is so open and loving, revealing. i have been in a camera lull of late, which seems crazy, but not as crazy as not even writing. i found this space a couple of days ago and have been walking the line of it. realizing it may just be the nudge i need to live more fully, rather than lament the fullness passed.
I have a friend. A beautiful friend. She does not see that. Many of my friends and I do not see our own beauty when we look in the mirror, but this class seems like it would be a way to see the beauty of oneself without a mirror, but through the “eyes” of our sisters. And so, if I won this class registration, I would give it to my friend. So that she could see the beauty in her that I see.
Wow, this was great insight as to why self portrait. 2014 is going to be a very difficult year for my family. My dad was just diagnosed with a brain tumor. I want to document his journey in photos, and now I’m thinking I want to add mine as well.
I am looking forward to a year of photos. I arrived here from the NowYou site and was touched by the beautiful self-portraits and comments in the student gallery. 52 of You sounds like a great class – not only a great photography class but also a great personal journey class – with an amazing group of women. Thank you for the inspiration.
always amazing following anyone’s NowYou project … Vanessa, late to reply, but i have loved seeing the inspiration and willingness and commitment you gave to your year. thanks K and Meredith for all that you do. it doesn’t go unnoticed. xo
we do hide behind cameras and delete reality looking for the shot where we look how we should! I love this post x
Im thankful for the article.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.