Interview with Self-Portrait Photographer – Catharsis on Camera

Featured Image: “One with The Ghosts”, 2021Catharsis on Camera

How did you first get started in self-portrait photography? Is it something you have always wanted to do?

I first got started in self-portrait photography after a self-portrait photographer/life model and former friend of mine inspired and encouraged me to get into that medium after he and I connected on Tumblr years ago. Self-portrait photography wasn’t something I’ve always wanted to do as I didn’t always like to see myself in photos outside of smartphone and digital camera mirror selfies I’ve taken in the past and shared on one of my previous Tumblr blogs. However, my former friend kindly and gently convinced me to try self-portrait photography, and because of this, I’ve been doing this as a hobby I’ve been partaking in and still do on and off since 2016.

Which part of self-portrait photography do you find the most enjoyable, and which do you find the hardest?

The part of self-portrait photography I find the most enjoyable would be when this creative energy flows into me, leading me to take sets of self-portraits- some photos I know for sure I can edit and post on social media and some that I either barely touch or don’t touch at all. As for the hardest part of self-portrait photography, it would be my trying to figure out how I can edit images that can be difficult for me to work with, especially those where I find myself feeling self-conscious about how I look in certain images.

“The Secret of The Mountain”, 2022 – Catharsis on Camera

Where do you find your inspirations for your self-portrait photos?

I find my inspirations for my self-portrait photos from various sources- images I’ll see on social media, exhibitions in art galleries and museums I’ve stepped foot in, and films, music, and quotes from writers that figuratively touch my soul and challenge my preconceived notions on how I see and perceive the connections I have with myself, the people I’ve interacted with on social media and in real life, and the world in its entirety. 

If you were to undertake your perfect photo shoot without restrictions, can you tell me what you would do? 

I would definitely do a photo shoot in a forest where I’m surrounded by towering redwood trees and small bodies of water that sets the mood for a self-portrait photography series where I’m posing in front of the camera and I’m in nature. Also, I’m either partially clothed or nude as I pose and I get so into the photoshoot that I find myself not getting too concerned if people watch me make self-portraits or not.

“I Am A Living, Breathing Work of Art”, 2021 – Catharsis on Camera

Which camera/phone do you use to take your photos, and how do you edit them?

For my most recent self-portraits, I used a Sony A7III (my now go-to camera), with either the 28-70mm kit lens that came with the camera when I bought it months ago, or the 50mm lens, to take them. For the self-portraits I’ve shot from 2016 to 2021, I’ve used a couple of iPhones (my current one being the 13 Pro), along with a Canon EOS Rebel T6i (a camera I started with in the beginning of my self-portrait photography journey) and Fujifilm’s X-E3 and X-T2 mirrorless cameras. As for apps/programs I’ll use to edit my photos, I don’t just utilize Photoshop and Lightroom as I also use Snapseed to edit my images, including those that either have double or multiple exposures, if I haven’t used any of my Fujis to do in-camera double exposure self-portraits. I don’t do a ton of retouching on my images, by the way, as I’d like to highlight all of the imperfections on my body. 

In your opinion, what makes a good photograph? How do you decide when something you create meets or exceeds your expectations?

A good photograph to me is something that isn’t just well-composed in camera and well-edited, but also, it is something that evokes a multitude of emotions I’ll feel when I see it. It also allows me to figuratively see an artist’s heart and soul in a self-portrait or in an image they’ve taken of a subject they’ve worked with. When it comes to my self-portrait photography, if something I’ve created is something that I truly feel I can edit and post on social media without my expecting to get a multitude of likes, comments, reblogs, etc., then I know for sure that it either meets or exceeds my own expectations, which solely consists of me expecting that any of the images I’ve made will reflect who I am as an artist and as a human. 

“Dear Silence”, 2022 – Catharsis on Camera

Is there any advice you would give someone wanting to start self-portrait photography?

I highly recommend that they connect with self-portraiture artists whom they’ve been following on social media and find those artists to be worth seeking inspiration, encouragement, and support from. From there, they can interact with those artists and ask them if they’d be willing to follow them on their self-portrait photography journey by means of submitting their photos to them via DMing them (in a kind and respectful manner, of course). and ask if they can provide some sort of constructive criticism on their images. Additionally, those artists might not stay on the aspiring self-portrait photographer’s journey, so if they end up leaving at some point, regardless of whether they end up drifting away or break their connections with each other after they have a falling out, the aspiring self-portrait photographer can allow themselves to grieve over the lost connections they’ve had with the artists whom they’ve looked up to and made attempts at having a long-lasting friendship and mentorship with them, while simultaneously doing the best they can to move forward and allow a crop of new faces who’ll be their friends/mentors who can provide the support, guidance, inspiration, and encouragement that the artists who’ve left have provided when they were connected with them. It might be easier said than done (and I say this because I’ve struggled in letting go of former friends and those who’ve also mentored me), yet people who have been with us in the beginning of our artistic endeavours won’t always stay with us and they have every right to exit out of their connections with us if they don’t feel safe, comfortable, respected, and appreciated by the people whom they can no longer continuously befriend with. They also have every right to re-enter our lives and reignite the connections that have fizzled out between them and us (if they would like to, of course). 

Also, they can pick up a DSLR or mirrorless camera they can obtain that’s user-friendly to beginners (like Canon’s Rebel line), and learn how to shoot and compose images in the camera’s manual mode and in .RAW file format, edit those images in whatever photo editing program they choose to use, and not expect to be popular on the social media platforms they’ll post their images overnight.

Lastly, the aspiring self-portrait photographer must approach how they are making portraits and sharing them by delving deep into their thoughts and images before, during, and after they set the camera up, take as many images as they can, upload them on a phone, computer, whatever, edit them, and post them on social media. This can be done by them allowing themselves to tap into their vulnerability, and from there, they can examine themselves and what they can put into these narratives that the images will display about them, what they’ve been hiding after they’ve been wearing these invisible masks that conceal their most authentic selves, and what they can contribute to the communities they are finding some sort of belonging in. Even if they find themselves not having the opportunities to truly seek that belonging in existing communities for self-portrait photographers, they’re expressing their authenticity in their art and if they’re able to communicate what they’ve struggled to say in, say, verbal exchanges with people they’ll converse with, and in writing, they’ve already achieved to bring themselves into a medium where it’s not always going to be safe and comfortable for them to present themselves in photos as they’ll find themselves getting out of their designated comfort zones when they are making images that might not be deemed for society as a whole to see. 

Do you think social media sites restrict content creators or push them to be more creative in finding different ways to express themselves?

I personally think social media sites, like Instagram, can be restrictive to content creators, yet they can provide opportunities for them to find different ways to express themselves while doing as much as they can to adhere to the social media site’s community guidelines. The self-portrait photographers I truly respect and connect with are those that acknowledge AND accept that sites, such as Instagram, have vaguely-worded and confusing community guidelines they’ve been doing the best they can to follow, yet it can be frustrating to follow what those sites want them to follow to a T. Despite that, they somehow adapt by determining how they can censor whatever photos they’ll post on Instagram and simultaneously find other sites where they can post their uncensored content, if they feel inclined to build their presence and following on Twitter, Tumblr, Patreon, Gumroad, and wherever else they’d like to be active in. 

“Aphrodite”, 2017 – Catharsis on Camera

If you could wish for three things to come true, what would they be and why?

I’d wish I can have more opportunities to meet artists I’ve been connecting with to do in-person photoshoots/collaborations with, do more projects where I can swap images with another self-portrait photographer and they and I can edit each other’s images and post them on Instagram, and travel around the U.S. and the world where I’m not just doing self-portrait photography projects, but I’m also doing street and landscape photography in Paris, Zurich, Berlin, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Manila, Da Nang, wherever. 

Any goals that you want to achieve in the next 2 years?

You know, I might not really know if I’ll keep dabbling in self-portrait photography in the next two years, yet I’d like to achieve my goals in continuously making and sharing self-portraits on Instagram and Tumblr despite my being busy working full-time, connecting with more photographers as well as artists who draw and paint their subjects, and keep evolving as I’m in the current iteration of myself- one that’ll keep being kind, respectful, and supporting of artists who enjoy following and connecting with people like myself, yet they need their precious time to return to themselves by means of resting, recharging, and creating their own works before they have the mental and emotional capacity to interact with others again. 

I would also like to set and achieve goals associated with my needing to make a conscientious effort to engage in self-care practices. As much as I love to be on Instagram and other social media platforms, my energy can be drained if I don’t carve out time for me to figuratively pour whatever I’ve been filling in other artists’ cups into my own cup. In other words, I’d like to be more mindfully aware of the time and energy I give to other artists in case I haven’t had the chance to take care of myself and my emotional needs after I’ve spent so much time immersing myself in their works and the conversations I’ve had with them. I find that if I take more breaks/hiatuses from social media, then I’ll feel less energetically drained. I also want to add that I can feel depressed and disengaged with the digital world if I see nothing but negating content on any of my social media feeds, so it’s important for me to step out of social media and step into the real world if I experience nothing but doom and gloom in the images, words, and videos that populate all of my social media feeds. 

“Untitled”, 2016 – Catharsis on Camera

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