I recently received a comment that while my modeling may be evolving, my photography is static. I think my photography has been constantly improving through experience, and as a model photographer, the line between modeling and photographing is somewhat blended for me (even more so as a self-portrait photographer). However, this comment got me thinking. It's true that there is a lot of repetition in my photography, partly a result of my narrow focus, but also the result of certain limitations that exist for me. I'd like to discuss some of those limitations here in the hopes that I may discover some ways to work around them.
First of all, there are some pretty unique limits on self-portrait photography itself - especially from a photographing perspective - that may be hard to understand if you don't do a lot of it. When you're acting as both the photographer and the model, there are advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that the photographer and the model are of one mind. A pretty big disadvantage is that you can't physically be behind the camera and in front of it at the same time (except in even more limited circumstances - such as in front of a mirror). So you can set up the shot - but you have to guess how the model will look. And once you get into place, you're shooting blindly.
For this reason I do feel as though I am modeling more than photographing. An easy solution to this is to do other kinds of photography than self-portraiture. I could take pictures of other things, and I have done some of this in the past, but my interest - my passion - is in shooting nude models above all else. So the other option is shooting other models, instead of myself. This would free me up to focus more on being behind the camera than in front of it. This is indeed something I am anxious to try. But there are some personal limitations I have that are making this difficult.
I am not an outgoing person. I am not extraverted, and I am not very social. I have a hard time just meeting new people, let alone asking them to do something (model) for me. On top of all that is the fact that the type of photography I prefer to do (nude portraiture) is very controversial, and thus much less likely to be met with a positive reaction. As if that weren't enough, the type of people I'd want most to photograph are the ones that I think are beautiful, and it just so happens that those people tend to be the ones I am most uncomfortable talking to.
Another limitation somewhat unique to my situation is the fact that I want to photograph the female form, but the only form readily available to me is a male form (my own). I may be exaggerating the difference, but I feel like if I was shooting a model I wanted to shoot, it would be much easier to take pictures I like. Whereas, with a male model, there are certain poses and positions that I think look good, but many others which are just unappealing to me. I could take a photograph of an attractive female sitting on a chair and it could look fantastic on account of the model. But put myself in that chair and it looks terrible. I have experienced this countless times already, trying to mimic shots I like taken by others. The result of this is that I feel constrained to those certain poses and angles that look good, and unable to realize some of my own ideas on account of having an inadequate model. An unintended (but not unwelcome) consequence of this is that I've been feminizing myself more and more over time, to meet my needs.
There are also some limitations that crop up due to the nature of my work, whether I'm photographing myself or other models. When I'm shooting, especially out on location, I'm constantly aware of the risk of getting caught taking nude (and sometimes erotic) pictures. This distracts my attention away from the job at hand. Also, instead of shooting wherever I think would make the best shot, I feel pushed into whatever corners are available where people don't go, in order to avoid exposure - regardless of whether those spots are very photogenic.
One answer to all of this is simply to shoot different kinds of photography. Or let the models (myself or others) keep their clothes on. But again, this is about my passion, and what I want to shoot. There are a billion people out there shooting clothed models and flowers and buildings and street festivals and anything else you can think of - including nude models. But the point of that is, I have to shoot what I feel passionate about, what I feel driven to shoot, or else there's not much point in it for me. So that's why I'll continue to shoot what I love to shoot. In the meantime, it won't be easy, but I'll try to look for alternative solutions to some of these limitations that plague me. A large part of it could just be having the confidence to take the risks necessary to pursue my vision.