Freeing your creative mind with self-portraiture

"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way." - Edward de Bono


I never did much self-portraiture, except for the occasional project where I wanted to work through and express very personal feelings. And to be honest - these pictures never really got shown to anyone. But my attitude towards self-portraiture changed a little while ago. And I will tell you why. 


My husband and I love to be in nature and go hiking whenever possible. Even when we travel we mostly avoid urban areas and prefer to visit rural places, hike every day, take long walks and just breathe life in. And we always stumble upon something special - an enchanted or beautiful natural site, ruins of old castles and abbeys, decayed houses, creepy lost places or just a beautiful view. And in the past I always regretted not being able to do a photoshoot there, or at least not right away. So I took notes and pictures to memorize these places for future shoots. But due to the number of hikes we do I gathered a veeery long list of possible photo locations. And some of them are quite far from home because we discovered them on a weekend-trip or vacation. That means I just don’t have the time and means to go back to every single one of those spots and execute a photoshoot there. And I really regretted that!


But one day this summer everything changed. It was a day my mind felt cluttered, a day where I just needed to get away from daily routines, where I felt the urge to go outside and clear my mind. So my husband and I spontaneously packed our bags and headed into nature. We decided to explore a place we’ve never been before. And - following a gut feeling - I spontaneously put a piece from my studio wardrobe into my backpack. We were halfway through our hike when I spotted the perfect scenery for a picture. It was a setting I had always hoped to find, so I seized the opportunity right away. I changed clothes, put the preset camera into the hands of my husband, gave him some instructions and headed towards the trees. I felt invigorated and excited. I just went with the flow.


Back home I couldn’t wait to sort through the picture - and they turned out exactly as I had envisioned them. We had created pictures that embodied my need for escape, my connection to nature and just everything I felt that day. Something so meaningful and beautiful created in a spontaneous moment of joy. I was more than happy!

But I didn’t come out of this experience with only some beautiful pictures. No, it permanently changed part of my creative process. This spontaneous creative adventure freed me more that I can put into words. That day I realized I can execute a photoshoot wherever and whenever I want to! And since that day I always carry some special piece of clothing with me. Every time we’re on the road and stumble upon a place where I get that ‘gut feeling’ I just change clothes, we do a little photoshoot and afterwards continue our way.


Right now, there are a lot of pictures waiting to be edited - and I love that! These pictures don’t mean I will never come back to that place to do a ‘proper photoshoot’ there. And of course, most of those pictures have no in-depth concepts and stem from intuitive ideas. But they train you to be spontaneous, to think through very quickly what that place could be, what it could mean, what you could do with it, what for a character you could embody. You are restrained to that place at that time of day with what you have in your bag and yourself as a model. So just start experimenting and see what you can come up with!

I find those restraints very freeing. In my usual process of creation I’m knee-deep in conceptualizing for hours, days, weeks and even month. Sometimes it takes forever for pictures to be created. But those newfound spontaneous little bursts of creativity free me from that approach. No expectations, just going with the flow. It’s like training a creative muscle and honing your inspiration. My art has evolved, my creative mind is freed and I am looking forward to every hike, curious what I will discover, what I will create.

With self-portraiture I get to explore myself in a totally new way. I become a character in multiple stories and for a little while I dive deep into my own little world. For me personally these pictures are the best memories of my hikes and trips I could ever wish for! They depict my adventures, my connection with nature, they are a symbol for my journey of self-discovery. And I decided to unite these pictures and start an ongoing series called ‘Sojourner’.


So, if there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it is this - try self-portraiture!

Deviate from your usual creative approach, do something different, be spontaneous and don’t always take yourself too seriously. It will free your creative mind and it will make you come alive! 

Michaela Jung-Vogelwiesche

Fine Art Photography

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