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  • Writer's pictureJae Hodges

Self Portrait with Things

Updated: 5 days ago

I don't believe in coincidence. A month ago I started an on-line workshop called Photography to Get to Know Yourself. I thought this would be a natural extension of my experience at the Château d'Orquevaux and the magical awakening of courage and confidence in my photography. I have not been disappointed. As I am exploring myself, my response to my place in the world and my ability to capture photographically the whole journey, I am constantly amazed at the new works coming from my mind, my camera and my computer.

So, imagine the moment I picked up photographer Tim Carpenter's book To Photograph is to Learn How to Die in a most beautiful bookstore in Columbia, South Carolina, where I just happened to be exhibiting one of my Conversations with Myself series photos from the Château. The electricity coursing through me. I wanted to yell to anyone who would listen, look here's a book to live by, a book that Pat Conroy might even agree is "a head-on collision [between] self and imagination."

Everything's connected.

I've read the first 45 or so pages like three times already. There's just so much there to unpack, and there isn't a page that doesn't have some marker or note or underlining. Few books resonate with me in this way. But to have experienced the Château, started this workshop and picked out this book among hundreds on the shelves dedicated to art and photography not only within a few months but at this very point in my life seems not just fortuitous; it's consequential.

Carpenter states "it is [a] vigorous scrutiny of one's self and of the modulations of one's self and also a cultivation of [the] process of self-examination--that underlies what [can be seen] as a fruitful means of not only making useful aesthetic objects, but also of living a life that is affirmative despite our limitations, a life that might afford one a significant freedom."

This photo is me, of course, but not me. The object is not the camera. It doesn't even matter if this photo was taken through a mirror or if someone else took it. This is a photo of me as photographer, me behind the camera capturing what is around me, freeze-framing this moment in my life when I am able to simply be me, the person writing my story through photographs. I never thought to do this before, never thought of myself in this way before. This photo is the moment that affirms my life, gives me freedom, and thus shows, ultimately, my own usefulness.

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