Usually photographing myself grounds me, calms me, brings me back down into my body. Lets me escape my mind for a bit, lets me just be a physical void for a thirtieth of a second, or however long the light calls for.
But not today.
Today I striped down in my studio, arranged the stool and focused on an upright broom, a stand-in for my body. Focus and focus again and check the light and make sure the lens isn’t locked and make sure the lens is set to timer. Wind the film, click the shutter open and hear the whirring of the timer.
And then I’m in front of the camera again. I’m in front of myself again. And I can’t hide anymore, or pretend I’m not who I am. I can’t face away and even when I try my eyes are still there, looking out, looking in.
Usually this is validating. Its why I do what I do, it’s what I live for, those seconds when I can exist as two people: photographer and subject. I divide into two bodies, half of me lives in the camera and the other half is raw and vulnerable, trying to be seen, wanting to be seen.
Usually, this division allow me to breathe.
But today the fact that I couldn’t hide or run or turn away was a hand around my throat, my heart, my eyes welled against my will and I was found naked and photographing myself crying, like a dramatic 13 year old version of myself again.
And I couldn’t run away. And I couldn’t hide from myself, my alter ego the camera was there, my other half, my more discerning self, the one I can’t lie to.
And instead of feeling grounded, instead of escaping my mind, I collapsed instead and all that came were tears and fear and self loathing. Instead of a physical void it was like I was the most real thing I had ever been, and it scared the shit out of me because the most real thing I have ever been is so flawed, full of pock marks and weird scars and the most real thing I have ever been has made so many mistakes, has let the wrong people get close to her and pushed the good ones away, and the most real thing I have ever been is afraid all of the time and the most real thing I have ever been hides behind the camera and the words and the flowers and the morning sky and the most real thing I have ever been is nobody, probably.