“Portrait” Photo/Painting Series by Sarah Y. Varnam

"Portrait" Series II - Sarah Y. Varnam

“Portrait” Series II – Sarah Y. Varnam

When people see one of my paintings, they often ask, “Is it a self portrait?” It usually isn’t in the strictest sense, but I don’t know that I could say that any of my portraits are truly not. While aesthetics and more general themes have started to temper the chaotic, raw motivation behind my really early work (what I’m doing now is, in the grand scheme of things, still early work), there is still a lot of me in my paintings. I rarely paint a portrait thinking of myself as the subject, but feelings and features sneak in.

With this in mind, and inspired by the recent inclusion on our website of Sean G. Marjoram’s photography portfolio, I decided to shoot a photo series that I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks. The concept for the series is partially inspired by Flora Borsi’s series “The Real Life Models”. The idea was pretty simple: since my paintings have a lot of me in them, I wanted to show how much of them is in me (so to speak). My dyed hair, the makeup I wear (when I, rarely, bother to wear any), the clothes I choose, the piercings, the tattoo ideas I have–all 0f these are ways of entering physically the artistic world I inhabit when I pick up a paintbrush.

I wanted to do this more concretely, so I went through my face paints and my most dramatic makeup, picked up my camera, and packed them all for a trip to my dad’s washroom. Laughable as this sounds, there is one wall in his bathroom that has, I swear, almost studio-quality lighting compared to anywhere in my apartment.

And then I did my best to turn myself into a painting.

"Portrait" Series I - Sarah Y. Varnam

“Portrait” Series I – Sarah Y. Varnam

I didn’t copy any particular piece (I’ve tried that before unsuccessfully). I did take cues from certain pieces, most notably those from the “Telling Tales” and “All Mad Here” series, as well as some personal pieces that aren’t up on my portfolio page. The results are strange hybrids. In a way, they are still “just” self portraits; in another sense, they aren’t of me at all. I wasn’t thinking so much of photographing myself as photographing the paintings overlaid over me-as-canvas. The expressions in the photos are more those of my paintings than ones I wear in everyday life. They are posed; they possess composed intent.

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. There are angles I wish I’d thought of, colours I wish I’d included, and I’m sure I’ll edit them again at some point, but for now I think I’ve accomplished what I meant to do. And here, without further ado, is the full series:


Leave a comment

Filed under Apple of my Odd Eye, art, Photography

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s