S is for Self-Portraits
and selfies, too
|Zach Margolis||Mar 25|
Hi! I hope you’re all staying safe and washing your hands.
Being mostly isolated at home, I’ve had a lot of time for introspection and reflection the last two weeks—I assume this is a common feeling for others too. I had a haircut scheduled last week that had to get cancelled/rescheduled and I’ve spent a little more time than I like to admit thinking about my appearance. It’s related to the perennial worrying about how I look in pictures, and other related insecurities.
As I’ve mentioned, I love taking candid pictures of other people. Mandy calls my photos very “honest” (because even when they’re good pictures overall, they’re not always very flattering) but somewhat hypocritically, I really don’t like most pictures taken of me. A common remedy for not liking pictures of you taken by other people is to just take the pictures yourself. Luckily there’s an entire genre of art dedicated to this: self portraits.
A self-portrait is just an image of yourself, and people have been making them literally forever as drawings and paintings. Cameras have made process even easier and more common, and we’ve got a newer word for them: selfies (basically the same thing, but with an implied distribution over social media). Selfies can be written off as vain, but honestly I think that’s mostly a jealous reaction. Selfies are an opportunity for empowerment: to capture and share how you see yourself, in as positive a light as you want. So go out there, post that thirsty picture, live your best life! The Margs abides.
I don’t post self-portraits (or thirst traps) that often (if ever), but I do have a couple of handfuls of pictures I’ve taken of myself that I like (that are appropriate for a newsletter my mom reads), so let’s look at a few!
My standalone camera can be remote-controlled over wifi from my phone, so every so often I’ll set it down and hop in the frame. Most cameras have timers, which serve roughly the same purpose, they just involve a lot more scrambling.
September 2017. Flushing Meadows–Corona Park (Queens, NY)
One trip to New York, Amanda took me to the Flushing Meadows park, which is where the World’s Fair was held back in the day. The globe behind us is from that World’s Fair. This park is also where one of the big scenes in the original Men in Black film was. Here in the picture, I think we did a good job of framing the camera after it was set on the group and posing for it. My pose is kind of awkward because I clearly have my phone in my right hand triggering the shutter.
September 2017. Central Park (Manhattan, NY)
With Amanda again! On that same trip, we walked through Central Park and took another picture. I didn’t think much of this photo, but Amanda reminded me that she loves it because it captured her natural curiosity and inquisitiveness. She’s leaning over to look at my phone while I was in the middle of showing her the remote app, like “see? this is us!”
January 2018. Pacific Heights (San Francisco, CA)
My mom had just finished knitting me this sweater based on a pattern she found in Iceland. After I got it in the mail, she asked me to take a picture of myself in it. I don’t have a tripod, so I perched my expensive camera precariously on top of a bunch of cardboard boxes I had laying around. What I love about this photo is all the patterns, the comforter, the wallpaper in my old apartment, and of course the sweater itself. Again, you can see me holding my phone in my right hand as a remote, but I think that it can be easy to miss if you don’t know to look for it. Looking at this picture again reminds me that ugh, I really wish I could still get that wallpaper, the company stopped printing that pattern so I couldn’t get it again after I moved.
Most phones have front-facing cameras which lend themselves to really easy self-portraits because you can see how you look live. Here are a few:
April 2019. Fort Point (San Francisco, CA)
My open water swim club is almost entirely volunteer-run, I try to contribute by race directing, which involves coordinating boats and kayakers and swimmers. Here I am on the main support boat after we had just launched 25 or so swimmers at Fort Point. The lighting was great and I was feeling accomplished, so I took the opportunity to cheese for a few selfies with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
July 2019. Tahoma (Lake Tahoe, CA)
I have a hand-me-down GoPro that I carry with me every-so-often. One of the bummers of this particular GoPro is that if you sneeze on it the wrong way, it wipes the memory card and you lose all your pictures, so I have very few pictures from it. The day before the annual Tahoe Relay swim, my team and I met up with some of our other friends to swim in the lake and get acclimated, so I brought the camera. We had a fun time and I just love any picture that shows how magically blue the Tahoe water is, even if I’m kind of backlit.
September 2019. Donaghadee (Northern Ireland, UK)
A mirror selfie! I don’t post too many of these, either. I had a few days of downtime and acclimation before my swim this last September, so I spent a lot of time hanging out in this precious cottage I booked. The upstairs had a desk so I worked on a few things on my computer there. One day decided I really was feeling the lighting, so I snapped this one. Basically a “felt cute, might delete later” but clearly I didn’t delete it.
February 2020. National Mall (Washington, DC)
This is in the same spot as the picture I posted two weeks ago in DC wandering through the National Mall. I did set up my camera to be remove controlled, but I ended up enjoying this photo more. The focus is too shallow (I look like a fuzzy blur) but I love how sharp the rest of it is and how much fun we’re clearly having.
That’s enough about me. I hope you all keep washing your hands and see you soon!