musings on shadow selves

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I used to be obsessed with knowing myself. With digging deep. Pulling off the outer layers as often as I could. My life was a treasure hunt and days were spent following clues, picking up pieces, analyzing symbols and making connections. I would stand in the mirror outside my bedroom and look at myself. I would play the game of pretending it wasn't my reflection. I would pull myself out, and put myself back in. 

When I think back to the past few years, that feeling, that longing to know myself, is the thread that runs through everything. Through my projects at school, through the writing on this blog, through my relationships, and above all, through my identity as a photographer. 

Now I find myself sitting at a table, outside a house painted a dark green, a glass of white wine at my side and the sound of familiar and unfamiliar voices through the kitchen door. And I find myself feeling a little empty. A little empty perhaps, without this obsession running through my days. Somehow, this past year, that longing to know myself was put out of sight. 

Maybe it's because, for the first time in my life, I just had to survive. I had a find a job, pay my bills, hold my life together, grow up. For the first time in my life I didn't have a summer to lay on my bed, staring at the sky and peeling apart the emotions running through me. It's like I had to build up this protective layer. Not something permanent. A wax casing, so that none of my former poetics had a chance to sink in before I wound up starving, unemployed, wasting away. It's like the past year has washed over me. And it's been beautiful, there have been tender moments, difficult decisions, anxiety, wonder. And I've felt all of it. But none of it ever really got the chance to sink in. That layer of protective wax has kept me safe, realistic, but maybe–a little empty. 

I  don't think it's surprising that I've been photographing my empty reflection, and my shadow. I call them shadow selves. They're silhouettes, the literal definition of which is: the dark shape and outline of someone or something.  

And there it is. Someone or something. Unspecific. They're self portraits with no information, a person without an identity. 

These shadow selves have been the thread that's run through the last year. And it wasn't digging deep. And it wasn't me staring directly into the mirror, or into the lens, but I find myself pleased that even while feeling like my identity as a photographer was lost, I have ended up with this serious of images that are very specific. I guess in a sense, I'm never all the way lost. 


  1. Lovely entry, I recognize this for a bit. All the practical stuff (such as making sure you are employed) makes you think less of emotions and that longing. I have the feeling it makes creativity diminish too. I hope I am not right about that though.

    1. Thank you! I think it does make creativity diminish. That's why it's easy to feel creative and free when you're younger and don't have all of the daily concerns to deal with. But hopefully that knowledge is the first step in making creativity a priority

  2. I love your shadow selves :) Especially the last one in this post--much more dynamic than the rest!


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