The Girl with the Knife Earring
When I first saw this photo, it took my breath away. I mean that literally, I clicked the link that photographer extraordinaire Joe Dammel sent me last week, and I audibly gasped loudly enough to startle to woman sitting next to me on the bus. I have seen many photos of my face, more than I care to admit, but never one like this, and I couldn’t stop staring. The first word that came to mind was “haunting,” the second one was “scary,” the third one was “sad.” These aren’t normally words that I would like associated with a photo of my face, and yet I can’t get enough of it. Check out Joe’s instagram @dammelphotographicworks if you’d like more details of how he created this shot (it involves plexiglass and a spray bottle and it was honestly a ton of fun to help create). Priyanka Primo styled and directed the shoot, the red beret and knife earrings were part of her creative genius.
I showed this photo to my coworkers the next day at work. They described it thusly.
It looks like a painting.
It looks like a painting by Vermeer.
It looks like a ghost.
It looks like a drowned girl.
It reminds me of Ingmar Bergman
It looks like something from WWII.
What I love most about this photo, and why I’m giving it an entire blog post, is that it has nothing to do with how pretty I look in it. I don't look at it and say, “Man, I wish my jawline were sharper, my cheeks were less chubby, my eyes were less puffy, my skin were clearer,” because those thoughts don’t have a place here. I can’t see my features clearly enough to judge them, and it frees me up to look beyond my own insecurities and consider the portrait as a piece of art in and of itself. Now I’m not saying the key to overcoming your self-consciousness is to only look at blurry photos of your face, not at all. What this image did was provide me an opportunity to look past the assemblage of features that make up my face and how closely they adhere to conventional societal beauty, and instead think about what is behind the photo, what the photograph is about. You wonder where and when this girl is from, is she in danger, is she dangerous, is she real, is she fiction, what else is going on here. It’s a fun and valid practice to look at a photo of yourself and see what else is there, what is not there, wonder deeply about its energy, instead of merely thinking “I wish I had a thinner face.”
There’s plenty more photos from the shoot last weekend. I can’t wait to see the rest of them and share them all with you. I hope you enjoy!