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The self-portrait; as distinct from the ‘selfie’.

A sign of narcissism? An inflated ego? A shout to the world “Look at me!”? Or something else?

I was at the Geelong Art Gallery yesterday to have a look at the Archibald Prize contestants and winners and I was amazed at the number of self-portraits. Initially, I thought nothing of it, but as I prepared an album to share on Facebook a thought came to me and I feel the need to flesh this thought out a bit more.

The self-portrait. It takes a lot of courage to see yourself honestly and convey your true self.

As a model/sitter for a painter or photographer you can only hope that the artist does you justice and conveys back to you an image that you find pleasing. But what happens when you are your own model?

All of a sudden you are required to look at who you are. To see the reflection of the person you show to the rest of the world. You have to look beyond the exterior and see into your eyes. What do they say? Do they tell the story of a content and happy individual? Are years of doubt and depression indelibly etched into the pigment of your iris? Are the eyes looking back at you from the mirror filled with anger or love or compassion or hate?

Has your skin really aged that way? When did you start to develop those lines and pigmentation that you so despised in your mother and father? Surely you were going to look after yourself better than them. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ and all the potions and cremes that the advertising industry can guilt you into buying so that you will retain your youthful glow.

Where did that bump come from? That isn’t the body you thought you had. The body you imagine is taller. The body you dream in has grace and elegance. The body you fantasise you have looks incredible naked. Who is this?! Why is there not a thigh-gap? Where is that six-pack abdomen? My goodness….are they man-boobs? Have those toes always looked like claws?

Before you can paint or photograph yourself you have to accept yourself.

Is there anything more confronting than that?