Amy is hovering over me while I flip through the photos on my iPhone, passing tiny cubes of Brooklyn sunsets, Internet screengrabs, and a rather embarrassing number of what I would like to call “meaningful selfies.”
“Whoops, ugh, sorry. That’s totally annoying,” I say, quickly scrolling past the images I took that morning, camera held high above my bed in an attempt to document the groggy aftermath of a pretty big night out — hand wrapped around face, bare leg draped over the bed, blurry and out of focus. You know, uh, art? Because Amy is a good friend she says something to the tune of, “No, I love it! It’s great!” forfeiting an opportunity for game judgment and eyeball rolling.
Copping to taking a lot of pictures of yourself is embarrassing. It’s like being the friend everyone knows lives for catching herself in the reflection of any nondiscriminatory surface: mirrored hallways, chrome bumpers, the oil-slicked sheen of a gutter puddle. The preoccupation and obsession with self is generally seen as evidence of vanity. And, yeah, often it is about that – what you wore the night of your 26th birthday party, the new haircut you were quite chuffed about once. But sometimes it’s more.
I’ve been taking pictures of myself for the better part of my twenties, the catalyst of which was modeling. I was young, and extremely talented people were working magic on my face. Looking pretty was still a novelty. I’d finish a day of work looking remarkable in that I did not look like myself. They had made me better, more beautiful, and once I washed my face, that moment was over. So I would take pictures.
But then I started taking photos during non-model moments, not randomly, but at specific points in time that I wanted to strike down in a grasping, faulty desire for permanence: gloomy photos taken in the mirror of a French hotel room, a very sad girl in the corner of a car’s rearview, an aerial perspective down on a pair of very ripped tights and a leather dress, evidence of being young and delightfully stupid. This is me here, I’d think. This is a moment that will one day be meaningful. Over the course of ten years, there are may be two hundred of these pictures, none of which were ever meant to be shared. These self-portraits – these “selfies,” if you must — were created strictly for myself.
There is in me an obsession with history and of process, this thing you are becoming that can only be revealed to you with time. You grow up with parents documenting your progression in this world, but when you get older, you’re the one responsible for remembering how you’ve changed. I don’t think these photos are really about “me.” I think these photos are about the “me” that’s always disappearing. I’m just trying to hold onto her for a little bit longer.