Today I was reading a fascinating book, Art as Therapy, by Alain de Botton--in particular, a chapter on self-understanding. De Botton exerts art can help us better communicate about ourselves, and create an aid for self-understanding. He notes how the art we are drawn to can have a "self-organizing" affect, and reduce the struggle for words we sometimes experience in communicating our deepest truths by allowing us to look outside ourselves, at the art, and say, "This! This is how I feel."
He goes on to note how this relationship between art and ourselves goes further: how we decorate our spaces also helps us invite others to get to know us, and to have small experiences of what it's like to be us. As I read I found myself realizing I've done this unconsciously in a number of times in the places I've lived (e.g., my bookshelves filled with spiritual direction and art books, my kitchen filled with vintage cookware and appliances, etc.). And when I have the most personal pieces about my space I feel most comfortable. So much here to unpack, but it got me wondering: if this is true of the art we see and respond to, how much more true of the work we create?
For example, I am consistently drawn to portraits. Particularly self-portraits of artists. I love seeing how artists see themselves. It helps me understand myself as an artist. It challenges me to see more, to live more fully into this part of myself. It's not a far jump then to connect how portraits play such a pivotal role in my commercial photography. I emphasize individual portraits when I photograph a family. I love when artists come to me for head shots. These clients allow me to play in the terrain I'm drawn to. After reflecting on this, I'm challenged that perhaps it would be a good exercise for me to create some self-portraits and to play in this realm for a bit.
That's me: but now I wonder how it is for you? What do you create, or what art are you drawn to, that feels resonant of who you are? When you go out with your camera, or when you have those moments, "I wish I had my camera!" what is it you're responding to? What do you see in front of you?
Maybe, together, we can even take a small step today: go through our photo roll (whether it's on your smart phone or elsewhere) and notice:
I'd love to hear how this little exercise goes for you. Let me know in the comments.