Red River Paper Blog
By Kath Chapman
I’ve sometimes been asked why not look into a mirror instead of going to the trouble of posing, shooting an image and then viewing a print? Wouldn’t that be easier than going through all that time and trouble? My answer is that an image is more powerful for me than looking in the mirror because it’s a moment in time that has been frozen and you can dig really deep into what’s there. It’s hard to deny what’s looking back at you when you have presented your most authentic, vulnerable and courageous self.
When you look at yourself through a photo it’s from a more objective standpoint and is a very effective way to notice, feel and heal. It’s much more difficult to do this with mirror work because even your tiniest movements are being replicated in the moment, which can be really distracting. Those vital inches between your brain and the printed photo offers enough distance to begin to see yourself from a new perceptive - you can bear witness to your own journey and start to heal, allowing self-compassion and self-care to come through.
Having found my recovery strategy, I wanted to see if this approach could benefit others so, the following year, I trialed Face to Face and the results were amazing. I was affecting meaningful and lasting change for others through my art, and it felt incredible. Soon after, I also starting offering Freedom Shoots as part of my work and the revelations from my inner-critic, self-portrait formed part of each process. I’d unexpectedly found my life purpose. And that felt wonderful!
By analyzing myself through self-portrait photography, I was able to enable others to see all the beautiful things they are. To bear witness and show them that it is possible to love themselves fully and to know they’re enough and be able to see themselves better. It’s hugely impactful and incredibly moving.
I also came to understand how important the felt response is for personal insight and growth and that we can access it everywhere. That felt sense is my fundamental call to create and I can see that I never wanted my art to be created or experienced in any other way. It’s how I experience all art and I wondered if other photographers felt the same.
In 2022, I decided to find out. I created Felt Photographic, an online art gallery hosting photographic exhibitions via open calls with the images being selected purely on the felt sense. I was curious if anyone would be interested in it and if it’d be helpful in any way. Or maybe they’d think I was a weirdo. Either way I’d win. I launched the first open call in March and it was like people had been waiting for it. My fourth launches in the autumn.
Looking back, I realize that however close I came to losing hope, I never gave up. I never gave up thinking there must be something or someone that would make the difference I needed. The something that made the most difference was my first shoot and the someone that helped turn my most significant corner was me. In the end, I was my own light; it had just been buried very deep in my darkness.
Our answers are not out in the world, they’re inside us. Sometimes we just need a bit of help to notice all the amazing things we are, whilst navigating the storms. Be your own priority and keep searching for what you need, trusting in who you are. And most of all have hope, because without hope we have nothing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kath Chapman is a portrait and self-portrait photographer, speaker and mentor, based near London. She creates safe spaces for people to notice themselves more deeply through art, specializing in transformation through photography, the felt sense and embodied awareness. All images © Kath Chapman.
Find out more about Kath’s work and her other projects at: http://www.feelmorecreative.org/
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