On paper, the assignment is simple enough: show up, take your picture...see yourself? But for the artist — and in this case, the photographer — it’s often the simplest task that becomes a whole affair. Questions asked instead of answered. Doubt working as the ultimate wellspring. Narrative built on the magic of gut instincts. As artists, the assignment is often to interpret the assignment. These ten international photographers turn the camera onto themselves and in doing so are estranged — momentarily — from their usual practice. Estranged yet connected, their signatures everywhere. Collier Schorr’s realism. Joyce Ng’s surreal sensitivity to color and story. Lia Clay Miller’s intimate opulence. Ming Smith’s pioneering observational powers. Tokyo-based Chinese photographer, Fish Zhang’s, lush eye, her bold, totally maximal approach to the close-up.
To be both the gaze and the subject, and to document beauty not as a signal sent out into the world, but as a movement inwards, is... romantic. Almost confidential. But fun. This is where Glossier comes in. These are not artists known for taking self-portraits. Some would even deny makeup as an essential ingredient of beauty. It’s important to celebrate different beauty without passing judgment. The idea of Glossier is about not hiding. Playfulness can be a bridge to performance. Joy can be born from the mundane.
Indeed, here, we are invited to take pleasure in the uncertainty of process and to witness the intimacy of a photographer alone with their feeling for composition, for windowsills and light, for arranging pink next to brown. One cannot help but perceive play, some edge, and briefly, a strange passing of time that feels all at once infinite and extremely still. There’s deep quiet here, as if the assignment was — all along — to tune out the noise and create a kind of soundless glamour, a coming of age.
Maybe that’s what the selfie is for photographers? Desirability that says “look...look away.”
I think of Jessica Madavo’s interpretation, which seems somehow in transit, blurred and wonderfully unthinking, as if Madavo worked fast to be true. Or Shaniqwa Jarvis’s self-portrait, which is in bloom beside flowers she calls her “mirror image.” I think of Guen Fiore who is looking at herself through her phone and yet the distance is familiar. Or Gillian Laub, who photographed her daughter, because the artist as mother is the mother as artist and beauty for her is wrapped up in Time.
What is it about unease that refamiliarizes the artist with their own traditions? What is about seeing oneself that suggests the option of performance? What is it about a red lip and net veil (see: Yelena Yemchuk) that instantly conjures Gena Rowlands? When I look at these photographs, I see the artist’s natural predisposition to arrange. To control an environment and grow flowers in the desert. To conceal as a method of disclosure. I see tenderness that comes with having seen a lot and tenderness that comes with having seen so little. I see attitude, and you know what? It looks real good. I see spontaneous beauty, unrehearsed and calm. I see the art of showing up.
“I never wear makeup and the possibility opened up a way of looking at a fantasy of myself. I asked for a beauty mark to add a thing, something artificial that might make me a new person. That is always an interesting notion. What is a part of a person one has never seen.”
On Collier: After Baume; Perfecting Skin Tint; Stretch Balm Concealer; Boy Brow in Black; Brow Flick in Black; No. 1 Pencil in Ink; Lash Slick Mascara in Black; Balm Dotcom in Original
"I wanted to recreate an updated version of the Instagram icon photo that a friend took of me 10 years ago. That photo kind of gave the impression that red is the color that represents me as I always wear red lipstick in photos. I still only wear lipstick when I’m wearing makeup but I don’t wear red that much any more. I chose a red lip this time but as the shoot went on it got more spontaneous. It’s a similar process when I’m photographing someone else.”
On Fish G. Suit in Jet.
“Turning the camera onto myself allowed me to capture raw feelings and moments of vulnerability and a slight cheekiness. My perspective is constantly shifting as I find self portraits have become a powerful tool for introspection and self-discovery, transcending the boundaries I had originally set out to create.”
On Jessica: Futuredew, Ultralip in Cachet.
“It’s hard to articulate all the things I feel, watching my daughter grow up. I am reliving my childhood vicariously through her. Photographing her was more challenging than I had anticipated. She wants to feel and look more grown up and all I want is to stop time and preserve her innocence."
On Shiloh: G Suit in Pilot; Lipgloss in Red and Holographic.
“Light is everything. (I set out to be an artist by photographing for artistic and cultural reasons but it also became a tool for getting through life.)”
On Ming: Futuredew.
“In Ocho Rios, the resort photographer Danielle asked if I wanted some photos at scenic spots. I disappointed her, but justified my response: “I’m a photographer.” Her eyes smiled back with instant connection, “I never let my friends take photos of
me”. Getting in front of my own lens this once won’t resolve my self-image issue, but it is a route away from being unhappy with my looks, and toward being at peace with myself.”
On Joyce:Brow Flick in Black; Ultralip in Cachet; Boy Brow in Black; Solar Paint in Ray; Pro Ti
“I don’t like pictures of myself and maybe have done a handful of self-portraits, mostly in art school, so it was a bit of a challenge to get started. But once I started looking at the images from a perspective of a photographer and not just looking at how I look, it became a fun process.”
On Yelena: G Suit in Jet; Pro Tip; No. 1 Pencil in Ink
“When I tried standing in front of the camera it felt like a whole different story. I didn’t have the same control over the image. I became more self-aware, and in the end, I decided to stick with what I know best.Taking pictures of myself has always been a personal and therapeutic process. It’s like looking in the mirror and learning to appreciate and discover what you see in a whole new way.
On Guen: Futuredew; Perfecting Skin Tint; Cloud Paint in Beam; No. 1 Pencil in Ink;
Lash Slick in Black; Generation G in Fuzz
Lia Clay Miller
“When I’m asked to take a self-portrait, I use my aesthetics as a kind of persona to hide behind. It’s easier for me to photograph a character I’ve created. Most would call this dishonest, but as a trans woman, heightened glamour and beauty are often our versions of the truth. We create. We play with makeup in a way that elevates, not outlines. The colloquial phrase for this is ‘she’s giving cunt.’”
On Lia Clay: Body Hero Collection; Super Bounce; Super Glow Serum; Monochromes in Bluff; No.1 Pencil in Ink, Frame and Canvas; Ultralip in Portrait. Makeup by Ruby Zarsky.
“I shy away from having my photo taken yet I’m always down to take self-portraits. What I captured took me aback, but I believe it represents my current state perfectly. Placing it next to my photograph of a flower creates an interesting juxtaposition, a mirror image that reflects different facets of my identity.”
On Shaniqwa: G Suit in Drive; Lip Gloss in Clear; Cloud Paint in Storm and Puff; Boy Brow in Black; Stretch Balm Concealer.