Friday, April 20, 2012

{in the picture} an interview with vivienne mcmaster

I am thrilled to bring you our latest {In The Picture} interview today with Vivienne McMaster. Her work is playful, whimsical and real, and she has been such an inspiration to me over the past year. As an alumna of her You Are Your Own Muse class I can tell you that Vivienne has a way with self-portraiture that can make even the most uncomfortable and timid among us feel relaxed, at ease, and beautiful. Here, have a read about her journey, and take a look at her wonderful photos...

1. Was there ever a time when you couldn't imagine taking self-portraits or have you always been comfortable in front of the camera? Do you remember when the self-portrait "bug" bit you?

Yes, most definitely.  I actually had no interest in photography, let alone self-portraiture up until about 7 years ago.  I had a really rough relationship to the way I saw myself in photos and definitely wasn’t comfortable having my photo taken.  

Here’s the thing about self-portraiture.  It allows us to be in control of the way we take the photograph as well as the way we see our self-image.  That was a total epiphany for me.  I could create images in which I saw myself with kind eyes.  I also discovered that there is space in self-portraiture for so much more than whether we “look good” or not.  It is a space for storytelling, for letting parts of our identity have a voice.

finding wings

I had been taking self-portraits from the beginning of my love affair with photography but the bug definitely hit me a few years in.  I found photography at the end of a rough patch (aka a depression).  Some of my first self-portraits were in moments when I was crying.  I just needed to take these photos as a way to let myself be seen for where I was at, even if it would only ever be me seeing those photos.

The self-portrait bug hit when I was spending a few months in the San Francisco bay area.  The place I was staying was one block from a beautiful cemetery and every night I would grab a few changes of clothes and head out there for a photo walk.  I would wander the cemetery finding gorgeous spots to take photos and each walk would unfold a whole different photo adventure.  I was hooked!

standing in the light

2. You've made no secret about the storytelling aspect of your self-portraits and it really comes through in your work. How much planning goes in to your shots--the location, your clothing/shoes, props, etc? Where do your ideas and inspiration come from?

In my You are Your Own Muse class I talk a lot about the storytelling aspect of self-portraiture.  I often see two different approaches to creating self-portraits: those who plan out their photo with a concept in mind and those who capture a moment, an experiential type of self-portrait.

I definitely fall into the latter.  I may grab a few props as I head out on a photo walk but I don’t plan things out.  The location I chose is always almost defined by where the light is at that moment, though of course I have a few spots I like to go to regularly.  My inspiration comes from a ray of light, picking up a fallen camellia blossom, the way the trees look through my camera, or a patch of dandelions on the side of the road.  It is very much an in the moment thing for me and I rarely plan shots out.

a cure for grumpiness

I love the potential that our self-portraits have to tell our story.  I’ve seen the incredible participants in my class create images depicting pivotal points in their lives, or create conceptual self-portrait shoots that truly have me in awe.  In terms of my own storytelling though, I feel like I’m always seeking to tell the same one:  about a woman healing from feeling captive to other people’s judgements and seeking freedom and empowerment in her own body and life.  For me it is about re-writing the negative stories I have into ones that have me standing strong in my own personal power.

In terms of props, I usually put on a pretty pair of shoes or a skirt if I know I’m going to take a self-portrait and maybe tuck a parasol or a Polaroid camera into my bag as a prop but they are rarely planned out. 

lubitel and i

3. Do you have a favorite self-portrait or series of self-portraits?

I really adore a good jumping or twirling shot.  I’d have to say my favourite self-portrait is a jumping shot I took in that cemetery I mentioned.  I tried about 30 times until I got that shot and had such a blast doing it.  I actually didn’t have a remote yet at that point so I had to run back and forth between each jump shot!  

walking on air


4. Do you have any goals this year for your self-portraiture? You know, something that's been on your "idea list" for a while that you've been wanting to try? Maybe something a bit outside of your comfort zone?

My main goals for this year in terms of self-portraiture are really to make it a part of my daily life again.  I moved to a different part of town this year from where I had been for the last 5 years and all of my favourite ‘locations’ are now far away.  One of my biggest inspirations is light and I love to have those spots to go to when the light is just right so my goal is to seek out some great self-portrait locations near home.  

I would love to do some more conceptual, planned out shoots which isn’t my usual approach!

red shoes

5. What is your advice for someone just starting out on a journey of self-portraiture--especially when they are feeling "stuck"?

I often say that Playfulness is an Antidote to Fear especially in reference to self-portraits.  I would very much encourage someone just starting out taking self-portraits to approach it with that spirit of playfulness.  Be sure to have fun! 

Also, take lots of photos of course.  The more photos we take, we make space for that one photo that is pure magic to appear.  No one gets that shot by taking only one photo!


birthday self portrait

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Vivienne McMaster is a photographer with a big heart and a spirit of playfulness.  She is part whimsical, part urban and quirky and full of a love of how self-portraiture can be a tool for us to see our selves with kindness.  She has a brand new self-portraiture class called Re-Writing the Story starting in May and has a whole variety of other e-course offerings that you can explore on her website.  You can also connect with her via facebook and twitter.

Vivienne, thank you so much for spending some time with us here on my blog today. Your photography and your e-courses have been such an inspiration to so many and I am pleased to introduce you to the {In The Picture} community and share your interview with them today!

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Hey all ~ don't forget to stop back here next Friday, April 27 for our next self-portrait linky party! I can't wait to see you {In The Picture}.

<div align="center"><a href="" title="In The Picture"><img src="" alt="In The Picture" style="border:none;" /></a></div>


tinajo said...

Very interesting to read - thanks! :-)

Heather{Our Life In a Click} said...

Great interview!! Definitely though provoking for me!

Anika said...

I love the detail shots...hints of the whole picture but set in an environment that implies a narrative, my favorite kind of portrait :)

"Playfulness is an Antidote to Fear". That should be said for life as well as self portraiture, beautifully put. Enjoyed the post!

deb did it said...

I am another Alumna of four different courses taught by Vivienne. My experience with her has dramatically transformed me as a self portraiture artist. Her inspiration and support is endless. I have always been playful, brave and adventuresome, but her instruction took me to the next level with post processing, storytelling and experimentation with new techniques. This has also helped me in my photography business with the public. I am proud to admit I have become a Vivienne Groupie!! I look forward to her upcoming “Rewriting Your Story” Her online courses develop into a friendly community where I have met so many wonderful real life friends!! And online friends such as Christy the host of this beautiful blog ~wink~

Tammy Lee Bradley said...

This is wonderful! Great project and interview. xoxo

Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

I've taken 5 courses with Vivienne. She is THE BEST-so supportive & encouraging. The best teachers show you what to do and then allow you to find your own spin on what you've learned. She has mastered this art. I can't say enough good things about her classes. They've changed my life.

Karen D said...

I love Viv and her courses..this interview just makes me love her more.


Otto von Münchow said...

A great interview with delightful pictures!

Unknown said...

her selfies are great! the perfect light is what I struggle the most while taking self-portraits. while it seems like I'm more of those who "capture the moment" I need to go with whatever light I have at the moment and that;s petty challenging.
byw, thank you for all those interviews. they are very inspiring!!!

Bella Cirovic said...

Beautiful! Love me some Viv!!

Charisma Moran said...

Great interview! I have been wanting to take more self portraits lately. I find them to be the most difficult...this definitely helps!

Barbara said...

Viv is fabulous - so supportive, and her self portraits are pure inspiration.

Kat Sloma said...

Great interview, I identify with much of what Vivienne said about what self portraits bring her. I have found the healing of my self-image through these few self-portraits I've done so far surprising. Thanks for the continuing encouragement!

Wyn Vogel said...

Wonderful - creative and insightful!! love your approach to life!!

Colette said...

I am going to sign up for Vivienne's new courses Rewriting the Story (YAYOM) and the exciting new MONTAGE course!

I find Viv inspiring and whimsical and playful. I love her courage in facing herself and being an inspiration for others to do so.

Lisa Gordon said...

I truly enjoyed this Kristy!
Thank you!!

This is Belgium said...

very interesting to read and to look at
wonderful to see that she is an inspiration to many

SpilledInkGuy said...

Really enjoyed this interview as well, U.M...
it's always so much fun to learn more about such talented and creative people!

Zena said...

Vivienne and her portraits are such an inspiration... I have taking 3 courses with her and the experience was fantastic and so this interview is

michelle gd said...

wonderfully wonderful interview! i love the gentle playfulness which really comes across in vivienne's photos and in her words here...

Jennifer DeVille said...

What a wonderful interview! I love Vivienne. She has also been an enormous inspiration to me over the past year. Her classes have made an enormous change in the way I see myself. She is so genuine and supportive. I'm so glad you featured her here!