The root of this project starts with my friend Shannon. For her 30th year, Shannon committed to making one Instagram photo per day. I liked the idea of making yourself do something every day which, beyond the normal hygiene and work commitments we make, so few of us truly do. Not a lover of taking pictures on my phone, what could I easily do with my camera where I didn’t have to schlep the heavy DSLR?
Photographing myself during my concussion felt soothing. I liked the way I could manipulate the placement of the camera and put faith in the shutter. That became my idea, documenting myself in this moment of my 30th year.
I started on November 4th, the day after my birthday. I gave myself few guidelines. I wouldn’t edit the photos beyond an occasional crop or lighting fix. There’s no retouching of my face, even on my worst eyebag/zit days (sorry, Mom). And I didn’t want the project to be one more thing I would chide myself for not doing, so some days I forget to photograph myself, too. It became a way to forgive myself for not being perfect because there’s always tomorrow.
To that point I had hardly posted pictures of myself on Instagram--I posted one from far away in 2015, and then not another one until 2017. There were three that year, 17 posts last year, some with multiple images. For the longest time regular selfies and putting pictures of myself on the internet was not an aspect of the culture I sought out. Why should someone need to see my face to know my worth?
But now posting of pictures of oneself online made you culturally relevant. It meant you did something worth seeing (or, that at least you thought was worth seeing). And advertising you had that belief in yourself was a new form of power. By sharing nothing, I was perhaps sharing that I didn’t think I mattered, that I lacked confidence in my own power.
It seemed closed-minded to not participate and I wanted to challenge myself to be involved. More importantly, I wanted to challenge myself to actively express my own faith in myself which, self-deprecating as I am, is not often something I do to people I don’t know well, i.e., those living online.
I also started thinking about self-representation and performance, what we choose to let others see about ourselves and what that says about us. I wanted the project to reflect the truest version of me as much as it could. But I still feel myself sitting a little straighter, raising my chin a little higher, angling my face a certain way to make sure I look like a version of myself I’d want recorded. I do think there’s truth in that, too.
Follow Project 30 on Tumblr.
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Subscribe to Miss Manhattan Hangs Out.