For our first project we were tasked to create a self-portrait that was a reflection of an exploration of oneself.
Artist statement & concept:
The concept that I had in mind when creating this image goes back to my own personal history as a skateboarder. I have been skateboarding for almost 7-8 years now.
I first started skating at the age of 14, this was when I was first exposed to the whole skateboarding scene in Singapore & also how I first started discovering about the town area, mainly the Somerset & Orchard areas.
I was skating mainly at the famous Somerset skatepark where I was exposed to a lot of these so-called rebels or rejects of society in Singapore. Skateboarding as a sport in Singapore is already quite uncommon & it comprises of a very small community of people. The general public tends to label us skateboarders as people who smoke, we are rowdy, always skating at street spots and causing damage to public property. There were times where I was even chased away by security & even got screened by the police. It was almost like we branded as criminals.
But as a skateboarder myself, I was exposed & was experiencing a completely different perspective of the skateboarding scene. While society tends to shun us & brand us as these so-called criminals or rejects, what I saw in this beloved sport of mine was passion.
People are using skateboarding as a way to escape their own troubles or worries of life. As cliche as it sounds, the moment I stepped on to my board, everything is gone in this temporary moment. Skateboarding to me is freedom, not just giving me the literal freedom while riding. But also in it’s freedom of expression, I was able to dress & do whatever I want & not care what people think.
It was in fact through skateboarding that I discovered my own path as a creative. Skateboarding is deeply rooted with art, design & films. It meant a lot to me & probably many other people as well. It was freeing for us & it is quite sad to me that people judge us & give us certain looks as we ride our boards minding our own business.
I’ve personally gotten these looks of disappointment myself. I felt defeated. Defeated from the love of own sport from other people who had no idea of how much it meant to me & the influence it had on my life.
With that experience in mind, this was what I chose to portray in my image. I am wrapped up in a trash bag, symbolic of myself being regarded as trash. I am lying motionless on the floor, almost like in a body bag as part of this crime scene.
Around me are my board, and other parts like trucks, wheels & my shoes have flung out of my feet. I lay defeated within this wide space to show how small & irrelevant I am in this stigma society puts us in.
The environment I am in is in a giant bowl of a skatepark, it’s marks on the corners resemble that of a large trash chute & the space creates this idea of the space of a huge dumping ground.
I put myself in this environment as I felt it was ironic that even though I am this literal piece of trash lying defeated in this massive dumping ground. But yet I am still lying in the comfort of my own ground within my territory which is that of a skatepark.
Hence the title of my self-portrait is “trasher”, this was intended as wordplay on the iconic skateboarding magazine otherwise known as Thrasher Magazine along with the word trash.
For the edit, I was trying to create this slightly desaturated with neutral colour tones, but yet also leaning towards a colder look for the photo. I have added these blue-green tone in my highlights to help push this visually.
I wanted this low contrast & flat look for the overall image, but yet at the same time, not losing this contrast on myself & the items that lay around me.
I did this by masking myself & lifting up the shadows, to allow my highlights on the trash bag to really pop out from the background. I also did masking to the skateboard & the parts, lifted up the saturation slightly to help bring that focus to it in the composition as these were the only elements in my photo that had colours.
After receiving feedback during our critique presentation, I went back to make minor adjustments with the highlights & shadows present in my background to help push this image stronger visually. By pushing down these 2, it helped me as a subject in the frame pop out stronger as well as the colours of my skateboard parts become more prominent.
I made adjustments to the saturation of the background as well, tweaking it slightly to give it a more flat look.
For my lens choices, I shot this image with a Canon 6D & a Tamron 28-75 f2.8 lens. This image was shot at a focal length of 42mm which I would say is something close to a 35mm focal length. As my image isn’t the usual close-up portrait, I didn’t want to use the usual 50mm focal length that would be used for portraits. Neither did I want the distortion that would come from using a wide angle lens or a 28mm focal length.
This image was shot at f5 to help keep everything sharp & in focus as opposed to using an f2.8 aperture which might have created unwanted softness in certain parts of the image.
1. Kyle Thompson
I love the surreal, naturalistic portraits Kyle Thompson creates. He makes use of everyday objects & common locations but creates something that is not only visually compelling but also feels out of worldly. The surreal feeling he creates was what I wanted to capture as well with my own image.
2. Alex Stoddard
Another photographer whose work inspired me was Alex Stoddard’s self-portraits series. Similar to Kyle, he plays with the use of objects & environment to create that I feel was something visually compelling & conveys a strong narrative behind the image.
And once again, my final image. Really enjoyed exploring different ways of doing self-portrait photography through this assignment. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone to create something that was unlike the stuff I would typically shoot.
Onward to project 2!