Friday, August 26, 2011

The Empowerment of a Self-Portrait

One of the most empowering acts I've done for myself in recent years, has been to take my own pictures. Of the many perks of being a personal style blogger, the most powerful opportunity I've afforded myself has been by planting MY face, MY body and MY style in front of, and behind the camera.


On April 9th, 2010 I published my first full-body outfit post taken with my then new digital camera and tripod. That post, entitled "In Full Bloom," was a milestone for me. I got to present myself to the world in the way I wanted the world to see me. My skills as a photographer have improved vastly since then, and while more and more I'm preferring the role of photographer to that of model, I intend to continue to put myself in front of the camera. Because for me, as a woman, it is the ultimate act of empowerment.
Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.    -Gore Vidal
In a world where women are constantly being fed images of how they should dress, what they should wear, what size they should be, and how they should look, I've created a space in which I present myself to the world with my vernacular of being: I know who I am, and what I want to be. I don't need the dictates of strangers telling me the who, what or wears of fashion. 



I AM FASHION, thank you very much- I AM STYLE.  By taking my own portraits, I control my image- this is the way I choose to show myself, and having taken control of my image, I have a say on how others see me and by extension how I wish to be treated. 
It seems that a woman is supposed to turn invisible after they turn 40. No longer nubile ingenues, the tabula raza now filled with an alphabet of our lives lived- our florid histories indelibly etched on our faces, tied into the knots of our hands, and in my case, slathered onto my maddeningly thickening middle. When a woman comes adorned with her arabesques of adventures, it is no longer seems possible to be the blank slate for society's version of an idealized woman.  My life is poured all over me: so why would I begrudge my scars, my wrinkles, my laugh-lines? My body has become a house of souvenirs of my experiences. And I can promise you, this old girl has no intention of fading into a background- I love the center too much, and you can bet your tschokies that I'll never be seen faded into some mousy pea-hen muu-muu and practical shoes, a sure sign of a woman given up. I refuse to be invisible. And, my friends, what better way to see and be seen than controlling the view?

I take my own pictures. I am at once the artist and her muse. My art is my message: I know who I am, what I want to say, and I don't give a damn. 

All photos in this blog are taken by me, unless otherwise noted.

56 comments:

Vix said...

You've said it all and more, freaking brilliant post, Bella. Thank you for being you. x

the Citizen Rosebud said...

I love Vix! xo.

The Closet Shopper said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today. I've been very hard on myself and getting caught up in all the negative I see in my self portraits. Thanks for the perspective and the unexpected pep talk.

Thanks for inspiring me.

xoxo,
Tracy

gabrielle said...

and THIS is why I love you and keep coming back for more!

xxoo
www.paperplanesandmaryjanes.com

fashionfarmsandfreedom said...

This is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read.oxox

Anne @ The Frump Factor said...

Wow, what an awesome post. I never, ever thought of it this way. Thank you so much for the empowering inspiration!

superheidi said...

all *smiles* here about your post and pics. And laughing out loud about "my maddeningly thickening middle" which I so can relate to.

GRIT AND GLAMOUR said...

Killer shots, moving words, absolute poetry, Bella. This IS your best, ever.

Cheers to older broads! I'm 40 next year!

Fabienne Jach said...

I LOVE this post. It is so empowering, I have experienced the same feeling since I started almost a year ago. It's given me permission, actually, I've given myself permission to be this woman and to no longer apologize for it.

I'm living my life, really LIVING my life. It's fantastic!

I just put orange and pink in my hair, (pix on blog Friday), and it was so much fun. Who would have thought that an almost 44 yr old woman could do this and not be ridiculed for being in denial only a few decades back? I can't stop having fun because i'm not dead yet.

xoxo, f

That's Not My Age said...

Love the Gore Vidal quote - and I've been thinking of publishing a full-length picture of myself for a while now, but I'm a bit of a coward, so it's good to know that it's been a good experience for you.

Sara said...

Really great post!

Beautifully Invisible said...

This is exactly why you are one of my all time favorite bloggers AND people... your words are true and empowering and YOU are beautiful.

Love you and love this.

Susan Tiner said...

This is great! You look fantastic.

But I mean great for you, not necessarily for me. I'm still struggling with the idea of invisibility vs visibility. I keep recalling the This American Life radio episode Superpowers in which people were asked which is better, flight or invisibility? Some people chose invisibility.

I've always felt I would choose invisibility and am stuck when it comes to figuring out why I feel this way when I know lots women don't want to be invisible.

Stuff to ponder!

Rosalind said...

Bella, this post was perfect. Although I rarely take self portraits (always having a parent on hand who will wield the camera), I can completely understand the idea of both the artist and the muse. The last time I acted in that way was when I locked myself in the bathroom a few nights before going to London ahead of scoliosis surgery, and used the self-timer to take photos of my then twisted back. Reading this post has re-inspired me to try taking photos of myself. Wonderful.

Lia said...

*HUGS* This is beautiful Bella! It's all so true, and it's why so many of us blog. Love this!
xoxoxo
Lia

Serene said...

Bravo Bella! You look radiant and do such an amazing job taking your pictures! Love them! Hugs! ~Serene

Meagan said...

I agree that being in front of the camera and letting strangers see you without worrying about what they think is incredibly empowering! I'd love to be able to have a tripod and take my own photos. I love yours!
-Meagan
http://spunkychateau.blogspot.com

Elissa said...

This is beautiful and empowering, and moved me to tears. Thank you so much for this post, Bella. You are a true inspiration. And you look *beautiful* in your photos.

gypsyroxylee said...

Bella, one word to describe this post: AMAZING! Sing it, sister! You have just said what every woman should be saying, thinking, doing. Enough of conforming to society's rules! It's time to rise and take a stand! I sense a revolution of empowerment taking place and I for one would be proud to join! Thank you for writing this post! I love, love its powerful message!

Terri said...

This is a MANIFESTO. You have managed to put into words what I have merely felt and never so powerfully articulated. Well said.

Frances Joy said...

This is brilliant. That is all.

jill815 said...

This is the best post I have read in a long time. I think you have to put this in a sidebar so people can see it whenever they need a reminder. And do I even have to tell you you must submit it to Links a la Mode? Well, I WILL tell you, please submit it!

Shybiker said...

I respect you and this post. Seizing control is the best thing a person can do. You are not a passive object for others, you are the active creator of your own life.

martin mattox said...

You are so RAD!

E said...

Ah! This is why I love personal style blogs - smart, wonderful people like you!

Sasha said...

You are amazing and oh so right in every way possible. This post should be seen far and wide. Your words contain TRUTH! Thank you for being awesome.

any2ndnow.com said...

I love this post almost as much as I love “Spin it Spinster”. It makes me proud to be in the same company as you, both in this blogosphere and in the time of our lives. You are beautiful and brilliant.

xoxo
Cyrillynn

THE-LOUDMOUTH said...

"I intend to continue to put myself in front of the camera. Because for me, as a woman, it is the ultimate act of empowerment."

You are wonderful. I am simply and incredibly inspired.

Heather Fonseca said...

Vix said it best "frikin brilliant post"!!!
I don't take my own photos, but I love being a model. It's made me feel so much more beautiful and sexy than I did before I started the outfit posts. I still struggle with the over 40 thing, especially here in L.A., one really is expected to just roll around in yoga pants.

Heather

Fashion Tales.... said...

Beautiful words from a beautiful woman!
I agree & have enjoyed being behind the camera as well as in front- I've learned to be friends w/ the self-timer.. -xx

Pull Your Socks Up! said...

That's my Bella!! What a wonderful post and it's so wonderful to see your self-portraits - you are an inspiration to me and yes, fading into obscurity is simple NOT an option. Big hugs to you xoxoxoxoxoxo

TRAN Thu Hang said...

I totally agree with you! Thanks for saying it all.
And the quote is so true!
You possess an impressive collection of headpieces. I love them all.

Have a beautiful day Bella!
xxx
Hang

sacramento said...

I am with you all the way:
I AM FASHION, I AM STYLE.
I know who I am, what I want to say, and I don't give a damn.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
I love you.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Dusk said...

I have no words. No words. Yours are all so perfect! Thank you Bella. Thank you.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Beautiful post, Bella! Great words for any age woman. I love the picture of you looking through the blinds...gorgeous.

the Citizen Rosebud said...

There are so many wonderful statements up there. I am hoping to inspire people not to do anything different but to be ok with expressing themselves as they are, how they are most comfortable doing it, and knowing that to put yourself out there as a real, as an individual woman, is a revolutionary act.

@Sacramento: I LOVE YOU TOOOOOOO! xo. -Bella Q

Kirstin Marie said...

You are so inspirational to me. This post is such an incredible statement, and written so beautifully. Thank you, so much, just for being the amazing person you are and being proud of it. The world needs more people like you, and I feel so lucky every day that I connected with you.

Mode Plus said...

Written from the soul, you can tell. I can feel it. So many inspirational quotes to choose from in one post. I love that you are you and stimulate us to be too. <3

Kimberlee said...

LOVE this post! Keep on being a rockstar :)

Polka Princess said...

Bella dear! Nothing & no-one can budge you form the centre.......the background will move backward if you take one step back! :)

I'm waiting to see more such amazing self-portraits in the years to come!! Go girl! Mwah! <3

undercover caterer said...

Awesome post and lotsa love from your +40 readers!

RETRO REVA said...

Thanks Bella!
I too used to hate to be photographed, and am still very unsure of myself when in front of the cammy, but I have grown leaps and bounds in the past 3 years! It's people like you that keep me grounded and brave enough to be myself (usually) Tee,hee!
I love your black and whites!
R just gave me a new 'cheapo' since i dropped the old one and i can't wait to use it! Who knew 12 mps would be in such a tiny little thing? he's the bomb.
xXX
Reva

The Foolish Aesthete said...

You and Gore Vidal have got it right. Everything you wrote is true. Blogging or being your own photographic subject is a surprisingly fun way to come to terms with ourselves. And there are so many pluses to not being 20 years old anymore!! xxx

Helga! said...

Fabulous post,darl!! beautifully written and every word is so true!!!!
I adore that pic with the polka dots and Minnie Mouse ears,by the way!!
XXXXXXX
You are TOO fabulous!

Nora-transient*treasures said...

OMG!! You are amazing. Such an inspiration. I am so honored to have the opportunity to spend time with you, and hope to repeat the pleasure soon!

UN-stitched said...

Bella, this is why I love you - thank you so much for this post. You are such an inspiration. Your words are beautiful and powerful. I'm going to read and re-read this until it sticks, life changing, explosive, so amazing my lovely lady!

Susan Tiner said...

Hi Bella, thank you so much for stopping by, I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

I don't think I expressed myself very well in my first comment here. What I was trying to say is that I recognize my desire for invisibility as needing further investigation because there must be some reason why I have this desire when so few I know women do. It's probably a combination of style ancestry, personality, etc. That's why I embarked on a style quest in the first place, to sort this out.

It's kind of a fun adventure, and highly revelatory!

testesttest said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again--I love posts like these and they make me excited to grow up :)

Courtney said...

Woops! THhat last post is from me :)

Fashion FyoozD Culture said...

Beautiful Bella!!!

What an amazing post from such an amazing woman. Your words have touched not only me but many other women who may have suffer from that ugly thing called low confidence and low self esteem. But I believe that you have started a revolution an Empowerment revolution!!

Much Love <3

Judith said...

You have inspired me. I want to start using a tripod and take my own photos. Just need to learn how and I will soon. Thank you for your powerful statement!

sylvia said...

Such a good post! Loved it!

Jenmarie said...

You rock Bella! I love that you take your own photos and you're so amazing at it!

made-to-travel.com said...

OMIGOSH...best ever. Really I am so inspired by this. I think it's really easy to take for granted the courage it takes to do what we do!! You know when I first first started I was taking mirror shots and cutting off my face. I just really never liked myself in pictures. But because of kind words, strong, supportive women and getting out of my own way I started to include me! Thank you Bella for so eloquently saying what an empowering thing it is to take your own portraits. I want to hug this post and put it in my pocket for all the times I doubt what I'm doing. LOVE YOU.

Paula K. Cravens said...

Bella, When I first found your blog, I didn't quite get it. You were so different. But I kept being drawn back time and again until I found this post. This post was a mind changer. This post gives me courage to step away from the "shoulds".

anne m bray said...

THANK YOU!
I'm glad you retweeted this

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