A Series of Fortunate, White Self-Portraits

Self-Portrait: Divided. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

I realize I am vulnerable in this post. But I am posting with confidence. Self-portraits need to be deeply personal.

As a white, female individual, I am constantly thinking about life and how people are born into situations beyond their control. Some are born privileged and some are born underprivileged. I am plagued by these thoughts whenever I hear news of (in my opinion) unconstitutional immigrant laws being passed, etc. I also think about the white race as a whole and my identity within that race. I feel a incredible amount of white-guilt whenever I think about the effects of imperialism on contemporary cultures and society. But there is no need to blame. It doesn’t solve problems; it creates more conflicts. I once walked into a grocery store, that was located in a poorer side of Chicago, and got death glares from African Americans for shopping there. I have also walked into grocery stores in underprivileged areas of Atlanta and received friendly welcomes. I am a lover of all people and all races. Everyone has a situation and everyone has a past. I know that it is near impossible to ever get out of an underprivileged, cyclical and genetic situation… My husband came from nothing… I may not have the same background; but I have a great idea of what it’s like to grow up that way. One cannot help the situation he or she is born into, and I think it is unfair that all aren’t granted the same chance. I cannot reverse or remedy the situation, but I can express these concerns and thoughts through my work. Everyone has a voice; an opportunity. And it pains me that more aren’t heard. I do not wish to offend anyone with these words because they are my own thoughts and my own opinions, that I feel directly relate to this series of photographs. With that being said, I do not wish to provoke a heated, political debate on my blog… just to open a door.

This series of self-portraits were taken this past weekend at Lake Oconee. I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to visit such an incredibly beautiful place. This mirror was placed in the house about two years ago, and I have found myself staring at it every trip I’ve made there. I am fascinated with the way the mirror panels dissect, and fragment, the complete image. It’s an interesting mirror because it is difficult to see your full self… unless you are really tall. But that is why I think I am drawn to it. I shot these my last night there, right before I went to bed. I looked into the mirror and saw whiteness. So, I decided to document and photograph this moment, with these thoughts in mind. I was also thinking about film verses digital photography and, although I am a fan of and work in digital, I love the nostalgia attached to film photography. I wish I knew how to set up my own darkroom in my garage, so I could go out and purchase a film camera. I’d love to play around in the darkroom. I love the process there. But for now, I’ll stick to Lightroom.

Mirrors fascinate me because I find them creepy. It is strange and uncomfortable to stare at yourself in a mirror or, at least, to me it is. There are so many horror movies involving ghosts, etc. appearing in mirrors, which might be why they creep me out. I think it’s important to stop and take a look at ourselves in a mirror once in awhile… and contemplate who we are as individuals, within a greater whole of a society. There has got to be a solution that enables us to strip the world of hate, greed and anger… the future frightens me… it is hard for me to tune into the news for a long period of time. My hope is for “peace and tranquillity” to spread throughout the world, as frequently quoted by the late great Pete Nance whenever asked what he wanted for Christmas. With an economic crisis at hand in the United States, and two political parties that cannot agree on anything… something has got to give and something has got to mature. I know that may be an idealistic impossible dream, but it is worth it to hope. I wonder what self-portraits of mine I will produce in my old age… or if I will even want to photograph self-portraits then. Ok, I hope you enjoy these and I am sorry to leave you with such a serious post… perhaps the lady statue in these photographs will lighten the mood… she amuses me 🙂

A Split Self-Portrait. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.

Self-Portrait in White and Mirrors. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

A Distant Self-Portrait in a Bathroom. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

A Manipulated, Split View. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.

Refurbished Revelations. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

Infinite and Finite. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

The Mirrored Door. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

Apparition of a Self-Portrait Female. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.




35 thoughts on “A Series of Fortunate, White Self-Portraits

  1. I applaud you for talking your way through the issues of race and circumstance that affect us all. There aren’t any easy answers for why we are where we’re at in life. But that doesn’t excuse us from examining those issues, either. And I like the pictures, too.

  2. I love this post. I’ve always considered myself to be very liberal-minded when it comes to all things gendered, racial, etc. But as a keen feminist and a photographer, I find myself constantly trying to reconcile the two. Not necessarily in my own work, but in the way I react to fashion/stock/product photography and the way it totally epitomises the issue of privilege, whether it be white privilege or sexism or whatever. It’s nice to see this issue explored in such a unique (and personal) way with the mirrors.

    Also mirror-play is one of my favourite, go-to things to do when I get my camera out so this post was super fun for me.

    • I’m so glad to hear you relate to my thoughts and my work. I have the same battle with myself as well and myself in relation visual representation. Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback and thoughtful comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and it got the wheels turning!

  3. Seeing myself (or hearing my own voice) always freaks me out. And I love the last of the self-portraits here. What an interesting effect, like the circling of generations that have created the boundaries and privileges you talk about.

    • Thank you! I think the top and the last are my favorites. There is something compelling in the portraitless mirror (the last one) because of the emptiness it seems to pronounce. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and I hope you will come back again! 🙂 Thanks for the feedback.

  4. Don’t feel guilty about being white, middle-class, female or whatever. This is how we are divided, ruled and abused by fascism in its many subtle and less-so forms. Be proud to be part of the human race. If someone is an idiot or crook, it doesn’t make any difference if they are white, black, red, yellow, brown, whatever – just treat them in a way that reflects what you believe they are. If they are wonderful – whether white, brown, red, yellow, etc, etc – then tell them. There is nothing wrong with who you are, your gender, what you believe you stand for, your socioeconomic status, etc. BUT, if you feel guilty because you are white and female, then you are disadvantaging every other white female. So hold your head up and be the change you would like to see in this world.

  5. No one has ever echoed my feelings on this subject so well! I, too, am a white female (and blonde to boot!) and I go out of my way to treat all folks the same. I don’t care about gender, race, job status or economic. To me, people are people and yes, I will judge you BUT soley on your actions and character. I realized a long time ago that there is much one can learn from the most unlikely folks. This has served me well. Ecxcellent post! 🙂

    • I’m so glad to hear that so many can relate to my thoughts behind these compositions. Beauty is in the soul not the skin color… just wish there weren’t so many others opposing attitudes still out there in the world. Thank you for the feedback!

  6. It is a wonderful project, I loved your photographs. You created such a nice images with these mirrors. And also B&W Thank you dear Polly Nance, and thank you for visiting my blog too, I am glad to meet with you. Have a nice time with your camera, with my love, nia

  7. When we’re born into privilege its very difficult to realize how we take it for granted. I have been lucky to have married a strong feminist woman almost 30 years ago and I still have trouble realizing my privilege as a white male. I was also born in the South; Georgia in fact & hated being from a racist family. But the privilege has to be fought against every day. Now that I get older the privilege of youth begins to fade. All we can do is our best. Stay aware. Looking at ourselves; whether in mirrors or photos or both helps. Very interesting series by the way!

    • Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment and feedback. The south is full of racists unfortunately… and a lot of those folks don’t even realize they are racist because they are ignorant to it. Whatever is the standard is the norm. I will stay aware! And you do the same. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this series. Stay cool 🙂

  8. Very Nice Polly. I like the mirrored photos also. I can’t do the photography but I have enjoyed using and manipulating the mirror filter on Photoshop.

    Yep – mirrors can be a little creepy, but you’ll be fine until the day comes that you photograph into the mirror only to see something in the photo later that you know wasn’t there when you took the shot

    I think each person has the ability within themselves to become who they would like to be; the will to get back on the horse after you fall off and perseverance in attitude.

  9. First of ally Polly, I would like to say that your “whiteness” is beautiful–so is all the shades of our humanity. And it is the “humanity” in all its diversity that makes a society what it is. Sometimes that can result in a coming together and at other times it can be what seperates us. I applaud you for your consciousness, for it is the begining of awareness and the subsequent union of us all.

  10. Hi girl! first of all, thanks you so much for visiting my blog. I have been writting for a week and is a nice surprise see that people like you is starting to respond to my work. So, I’m so glad.
    About your photos, I really like the mirror effect, is very interesting what mirrors can show us, the different pespective about just one image. I really wish you luck in this adventure. Pursuit your dream implies a lot of courage and conviction, so GO GIRL!
    Photography is amazing. For me is like a “peace moment”. When I have my camera in my hand, nobody exist, time doesn’t exist too and my mind in absolutely focused in the image, in a concept. That’s wonderful. How is your experience with photography? what do you feel when you are taking photos?
    Hugs from Chile!

  11. Thats an interesting mirror that led to some interesting shots. I love how it divides you up, even as creepy as it is to think of yourself all chopped up that way. And it was a lovely post, its good to be serious once in awhile. 🙂

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