Archive for the Self Portrait Category

A Short and Illustrated Thought #59

Posted in Photography, Self Portrait, Uncategorized on March 13, 2014 by smpiv



The snow falls,

a beautiful & baleful pall

settles outside

my window.


Evergreen branches

sag & lightly

sway for a

burgeoning breeze.


More to come

they say—not now,

but tonight when

the blizzard blows.


Winter weather

–like this,

lays life on pause.

A beautiful, no, gorgeous


Funereal silence.


A Collection of Short and Illustrated Thoughts #1

Posted in Photography, Self Portrait, Sherwood Forest, Uncategorized on April 22, 2012 by smpiv

I used to play tennis,

I was a fierce competitor and

Winning was everything.

I threw tantrums, I threw racquets and

Sometimes I cheated,

But I won.

I am civilized now,

But my game is way off.

Spooky and I used to collect golfballs in the woods

And sell them for pocket change.

I never played golf,

So I never lost any balls,

But I did lose Spooky.

He was hit by a train.

There are always paths in the woods.

I rarely used them.

There were more interesting ways to go.

I’m older now and I don’t wander off the beaten path much


I dread the day I don’t wander at all.

Nature was no foe, nor was it an ally.

It was something to be conquered and

What better way to leave a mark of conquest than

To etch your name on a tree?

The tree is still there,

Many of the conquerors are gone.

I always hiked in the woods.

There was always a bridge to cross,

A disfigured tree to examine,

A beehive to rouse.

I don’t wander the woods as much,

But I will never rouse another beehive.

This is what Mr. Dooley saw

When he took his grandchildren for a walk.

Mr. Dooley died yesterday of an embolism.

I never knew what an embolism was.

What will his grandchildren see?

My grandmother bought the house,

My mother grew up there,

I grew up there.

My grandmother died,

We sold the house and

The erosion continues.

The Self Portrait

Posted in Art, Autobiographical, Photography, Self Portrait on August 12, 2009 by smpiv

Like anyone who has wielded a brush, a camera, or a crayon I have made effort at the self-portrait.  They have to be some of the more dishonest visual explorations going.

Like any portraitist we are making an effort to define ourselves; to give others a look at the surface–a quick look, maybe a peek, but heaven forbid not a long look.  Take a good hard look at any self-portrait and you’ll notice confrontation, almost a dare–so you think you know me?

This is easily flipped around and could read–so you think you know yourself?  We do, well don’t we?

We know our history well.  We know the high points, we know the low points and everything in-between.  Some moments have more clarity than others and oddly some of our most ringing moments are those attached to societal, cultural and world changing event s like sneak attacks, aircraft blowing up and towers falling. 

But let’s be honest our history books are just that, ever heavier tomes that only skim the surface and give us dates, times, and highlights.  Gone is the wind, the heat or cold, and smells that completes any memory.  It isn’t for nothing that other sensory stimuli conjure memories for us, and quite often in a jolting way that just thinking could never do.

Having said all this I will visit with two of my own self portraits done close to ten years apart.  One is loaded with memories.  Some of the moment, some secondary and some tertiary.  The other is an image that I have long used to define myself.  Unlike the first image, other than where I took it, the camera I took it with and approximately when I took it, it conjures up nothing.

welsh self portrait cropped







The first image is of a young man–eighteen, maybe just nineteen years old, as unformed as a baby.  Unknown to me then was that this sophomore year in Wales would be the highlight of my undergraduate education.  By far my most successful grade-wise.  Even more so would it define how I thought and how I best learned.

I had quite a mop of hair at the time.  Thick and wavy set over top of curls beneath.  A closer look will show a face just cleared of acne and blemishes.  I look at that face now and still see those blemishes, the ones that made me avoid eye contact as a high school student.  A cleft chin that seems to be rather prominent.  I think most would see my mother in this image, while today when I visit family at ever widening time periods, gasp at the visage of my father.  One family friend looks at me longingly as I suspect she looked longingly at my uncle.

The blue down sweater–yep sweater.  It was meant to go beneath an anorak and in combination beat the rain and cold.  It did work and I had that sweater for years.  Beneath the jacket was my Bowie t-shirt, atop a pair of bell bottomed jeans and a pair of Vasque Hiker IIs.  How do I know this?  I just do.

I was in my dorm room in a converted Victorian mansion about a mile from Trinity College in Carmarthen.  It was somewhat of an isle of the misfits–a hardy mix of yanks, Dutch, and Brits who came late to their educational decision.  The other head is Frank–last name long gone–an American from Minnesota who I was certain was gay.  He would dispel me of this thought one very late night in the tower of Llanstefan Castle over looking Scott’s Bay.  In fact if you look closely you will realize that Frank actually pushed the shutter release.  My job was to say “Now.”

Well, that’s the surface–a whole lotta “Now.”  But what lies beneath.  The hard part no doubt.  Not necessarily though. 

I often think of my life as a skipping stone.  The instances when the stone alights on the water as the conscious, alive and aware moments that will define the arc until it hits again.  My Welsh sojourn was a stone to water instance.  One I touch on again and again to understand and right myself when other complexities look to tip my delicate cart.  I can move through these memories like they were yesterday.  I’m so sure of them that when my ancient mind starts to wander, this is where I will come and my non sequitors will have root here.  “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” as Dylan Thomas would put it.

mamyia self portrait 1985

My second image was taken in about 1985 or ’86 with a Mamyia C3 camera in back of 117A across from Gerard Fleury’s house at 102A, both on Edgehill.  That’s it.  That’s all I can remember.  Was it an image in response to an assignment?  Don’t know.  What was I wearing?  Don’t know.  Was I hungry?  Probably, but I’m always hungry.

So why do I continue to use this as my avatar.  It’s empty.  It has no definition. other than I know it’s me.  When I processed the image I burned out the tree so my shadow was that was left with bark–I am the vessel, I am the life.  It is my life.

I think that best describes it, a vessel.  I never age in this image, yet I am always of that age, and of the next.  I think it is best summed up in the final panel of a triptych I made when I was thirty.  The panel titled “Exitus”.  Beneath the image it reads–

When will I die, How will I die

Why will I die, Where will I die, Will I die?

The facts please.