I don’t particularly enjoy talking about my feelings, not unless there’s a punch line involved. I am happy to express my emotions in the context of a good joke or self-deprecation, but the second we cross into “oh wait, she’s serious” territory I awkwardly start to panic. My brain clamors as the other person’s expression turn serious and their head starts sympathetically tilting toward one side. Quick! Think of the next logical subject change! Uhhhh…. Zac Efron!
In the weeks following my mother’s death, I avoided social interaction as much as possible. I knew where ever I went there was the risk of well-intentioned people asking me how I was doing. I wasn’t at the point where I could deliver an “I’m okay” convincingly. Tears, averting the eyes, awkward deflection; these were all dead giveaways that I was indeed not okay. I was like the guy at the party who’s had way too much to drink but he’s telling everyone “HE’S FINE” only he’s swaying back and forth and he has to close one eye to focus. Clearly, not fine.
Seven years later I am comfortable writing about my feelings, but there was a time when I didn’t have the words to describe my grief even privately. In those early days, the only tool I had for self-expression was my camera.
On the days when I felt really bad, I would prop my camera up on a stack of books and take Self-Portraits, feverishly running back and forth between the shutter button and a pose, over and over again until I felt better. I truly don’t like being photographed, but it felt so satisfying to get my feelings out into the world without having to talk, or describe, or explain.
You want to know how I’m feeling? Look, this is how I’m feeling.
To this day when I feel so depressed and/or anxious that I can’t put together a coherent sentence, I turn to my camera. The results almost always channel my mother in one way shape or form.
Here are two of my most recent Self-Portraits and after that links to Self-Portraits by some actual artists. If you have the time, look through. It’s amazing how lost you find yourself in the maze of someone else’s emotion.
You know I started to write descriptions of the following links, but I am a mere simpleton, and trying to describe art makes me feel vapid. I’m going to put the ball in your court Lavar Burton style and say, these artists are amazing, but don’t take my word for it.
1. Lauren Simonutti – The Madness is the Method A recluse who suffered from Bipolar Disorder.
3. Bryan Lewis Saunders is an artist who has drawn at least one Self-Portrait everyday since March 30th 1995. He now has over 8,000 portraits.
4. Sabastian Eriksson is a teenager who creates surreal artwork to express emotions.
5. Kylie Woon takes surreal Self-Portraits, about emotion. Unlike many artists she is nice enough to tell you what’s behind them.
6. This is just a fun Tumblr of famous Self-Portriats. Because, why not?
Using photography and art to explore and express grief and emotion is a running theme here on ‘What’s Your Grief’. Subscribe to our blog to receive post updates straight to your inbox. No strings attached, I swear.
For more information on using photography to cope with grief, check out the following articles: