Chapter 1, Task 1
In Progress

Task 26 – Self knowledge

Task 26


The Camera Cure Task 26
At each photo seminar, the participants are to take a self-portrait. The exercise of seeing oneself from the outside and showing it to others is demanding and a little scary. Where the selfie is a controlled picture of a façade, the self-portrait moves behind the façade and exposes the reality. A few years ago, Arild was alone on a sailing trip in the Bergen area. He accidentally stumbled and fell over board and then the ship continued on without him. The cold water quickly drained him of his energy. Arild realized that this was obviously the end of his life and quietly said goodbye to his family to himself. But someone had seen the driverless boat. The search parties showed up after a few hours and with his last remaining strength he roared to draw their attention. In Peripgnan Arild chose to use the pool the rest of us used to cool ourselves off in to recreate the feeling he had that time he almost died.
Perpignan, France, 2015. Photo: Arild Godø

Personal challenge

Not seeing oneself from outside

“You are dull and a bit slow!”

This remark was directed at me by my military colleagues during a mountain exercise. As a part of the officer training we were supposed to become better acquainted with our negative and positive sides. This was done not necessarily to change them but because it was impor- tant to be aware of them to improve communication with others. Suddenly I saw a number of connections including the reason why I struggled with being liked and noticed. People rarely remembered me even after meeting them several times. I realized then that since I was shy I appeared to be unengaged with my surroundings. The turbo speed of my thoughts in my head was not outwardly visible. Suddenly I became aware of how I could get people to notice me more and like me better. I needed to change how I carried myself.

There are few occasions where we are given such an opportunity to see ourselves from the outside. This can be a harsh but necessary orientation to reality. Our perception of ourselves often stands in our own way. Maybe we oversee negative traits we should change or at least had benefitted from being aware of. Or, the opposite could be true. Do we have any positive characteristics that we overlook but would benefit from being aware of and could appreci– ate and use more actively?

It is hard to see oneself. At each workshop, participants are given the task of taking a self-portait, but mobilizing the courage to do it is quite challenging for many people. I could make a photo book just about the art of being invisible in a self-portrait. Some people make themselves so small that they are hardly visible in the picture. Others hide behind a camera in a reflection in a mirror. Some photograph their shadow, put themselves out of focus or let a movement become a blur. However, some of them are also courageous and get a good, educational experience through studying themselves so closely.

In connection to work, I meet a good deal of people who are not easy to like. Often, they are not aware of it themselves. After all, there is no one in their lives that tells them this. They often have a hostile, critical attitude both to themselves and to others. They don’t like them- selves. And when they meet the world with such an air about them, people mirror these states quite well. Grumpy people experience others as being hostile and difficult to like. I meet them often because they suffer illnesses more frequently than other people do.

How do you look seen from the outside? Are you easy to like? How do others feel when they are around you?

How relevant on a scale from 1 to 6 is this issue for you?:

Photo solution

Study yourself

en years ago, I attended an international master class with talented photographers from around the world. We were given the task of photographing the human body. I chose to study myself, body part by body part, as if I was being dissected in an anatomical theatre. I have continued with this project since then and I intend to keep doing it until I die.

Through seeing myself in this way, I have become more aware of who I am, in what way my physical body affects all of me and how I can change it. When I started, I was really thinking of just documenting the inevitable decline of my body. But over time I have become aware of the degree to which I can slow the aging process through physical activity. Now I’m shaping myself instead of just letting time shape me.

We ourselves are the raw material that we have to work with, both in the pictures and in our lives. Study yourself with the camera. This is a double challenge since you are both the subject and the photographer. Just as a doctor benefits from being a patient sometimes, a photographer can benefit from being on the other side of the lens. Then we can become bet- ter acquainted with ourselves. Surprise yourself! Try to show yourself the way you are, behind the façade. Show your vulnerability. Accept yourself as you are. It is possible to accept your- self just as you are and still see the need for changing yourself, like I did.

The most important thing, however, is to get a little practice in observing yourself from outside, and appreciate that we can do it. Self-portraiture gives us the chance to see our– selves from the outside and with a certain distance. The camera sees what we are suppressing.

At photo workshops we often emphasize how important it is to get the person you are photographing to like you. This is maybe the most important tool in a street photographers toolbox. And as you now point the lens towards you; start by liking yourself and look at your- self with self compassion.


Feel free to take a self-portrait in black and white.
By removing the colors, we also remove part of the realism in the picture. It is said that colors are prose and black and white is poetry. Colors have a tendency to take the lead role in a picture. But when they are gone, the lines, shapes and soul come to the fore better.

How relevant was this assignment for you on a scale of 1 to 6:

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Be honest with yourself. Be willing to identify and admit what’s going on.

Phillip McGraw

There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.

Aldous Huxley

People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.

Carl Jung