This is a self-portrait I made two months ago, back then I published it with the title “Bold and Proud.”
For some people merely staying alive requires being bold. When you don’t fit into any of the boxes that the society has been trying to enforce for centuries, when your mere existence is an eyesore for conservative people who believe in traditional gender roles, you have to be bold just to survive. When all the “rules” the society tries to enforce clash with your personal lifestyle choices, all that’s left to be is to stay bold and proud.
This photo was meant to be symbolic. I used blue and pinkish lights on my hair for the traditional stereotypical colors for men and women. Same goes for how my hair is arranged. Both sides of the face are lit differently, because I am a person who prefers to live as a man, but the society tries to force that part of me into shadows. However, that part is the real me. When people look at me, they imagine a woman. The problem is that this person they imagine to see actually does not exist.
I also broke some photography “rules” on purpose. There is no make-up, because I don’t use it (I never learned how to apply even the most basic make-up). Then there’s also the broken symmetry. In my opinion, when photographing people’s faces from the front, lighting that evenly illuminates both sides of the face makes the model look more beautiful. People perceive symmetrical faces as beautiful. Asymmetry can be perceived as ugly, even disturbing. Thus intentionally using light in order to make a person’s face look less symmetrical is generally not recommended. Given how my mere existence is disturbing for some people, that seemed fitting.
By the way, in my opinion Rembrandt portrait lighting looks better when a person is photographed slightly from the side (except, of course, for those few very beautiful people who look absolutely stunning in photos in any light whatsoever).
The curious thing about using symbols in art or photography is that usually only the artist knows what each symbol stands for. Viewers looking at some artwork usually cannot figure out the meaning of whatever they are looking at.
The photo is taken with Canon EOS 5DS R digital camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. It is taken at 1/200s, ƒ/8. The background is a grey sheet of paper. I used four lights: one light with a blue gel for illuminating the background; two lights with blue and orange gels for illuminating the face; the main light was a rectangular softbox. (The orange light was changed to pink in Photoshop, because I didn’t have a pink gel at home.)
I wrote this post a week ago, yet I was hesitant to hit the “schedule” button.
On the left side of my blog there’s an “about me” widget. You will notice that there is no photo. That is intentional. Most people add their own photos to basic information about themselves. I’m always reluctant to do so.
When I am talking with people online anonymously, I am free to be me. More importantly, the people with whom I am interacting also have no other choice but to perceive this person with whom they are communicating as the real me. When they don’t know my age, gender, race, visual appearance, the place where I live or what citizenship I have, then they cannot possibly apply to me their preexisting stereotypes about various groups of people. Instead, they are forced to interact with me knowing only the words I have written. Then for them I am only a blank page with some words I have said, and that is part of the real me (I think that my thoughts, also when written down and published online, are part of who I am).
The moment people find out how I look like or some biographical facts about me, they start applying to me various stereotypes, they start imagining things about me. Then they no longer see a part of the real me, instead they filter my words though their own preexisting stereotypes. Instead of interacting with a blank page that contains some of my words, they now imagine some person that is not me. In their own minds they construct a fictional image of who they think I could be.
For example, people who don’t know any facts about me will use whichever pronoun I use when referring to myself. Once people know how my physical body happens to look like, then they instinctively start using pronouns I don’t particularly like. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Once people find out your age, race, and place of birth, they apply to you an endless assortment of various stereotypes.
I like to hide behind my fox logotype, because it allows very little room for imagination. A reader of my blog who sees my logotype might assume that I probably like foxes and tribal art (those would be correct assumptions). Given how I drew this logotype myself, others might also assume that I am interested in art (another correct assumption). But ultimately I still remain near anonymous. A fox logotype doesn’t allow other people to apply to me all that array of stereotypes, which people start having upon finding out how my physical body happens to look like.
Then again, anybody who wanted to find out biographical facts about me could just google for my name. This information can be easily found online, and it’s not like the Internet was free of any photos with my face in them. Thus it probably doesn’t matter anyway.
In case you are wondering about my haircut, my hair looks like this, because I am lazy. I haven’t been to a hairdresser for seven years. I just ignore my hair and don’t do anything with it, which is why it has grown sort of long. Of course, I have considered getting a nice men’s haircut, but monthly hairdresser appointments would be a chore and an extra expense. Like many other guys, I am too lazy to think about haircuts.