Folio: work in progress

Self Esteem is all about physical appearance and physique and it is impacted by relationships, culture, values and community. Part of self-esteem is innate and part of it is environmental. 

After all my research, my new approach was to photograph people with the objects that bring about feelings of inadequacy, outside influences that negatively impact their self esteem. I had a big list of 15 models and 15 ‘objects’ to shoot. Maybe that was too much for one folio…?

Then an overwhelming number of people responded to my research question about the object with the answer: Mirror

So here’s my new new approach: Self Esteem is all about physical appearance, so I’ll be photographing people interacting with a mirror.Whether or not to have the mirror in the image I’m still playing with.




These shots were directed by me, except the expression/gaze. It becomes about the interaction with the self

Mirror-1 Mirror-2

These shots were directed by the models – I let them tell me what they saw in the mirror


This image I actually think I like the most – perhaps minus the makeup. Portraits of people looking into the mirror but with the mirror out of the picture it has a different feel to it. Not sure whether it makes it more about the interaction (with the self) or if it takes it away..


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Inspiration: Phillip Toledano

Phillip Toledano – A New Kind of Beauty 

First of all I have to say – this series of photographs made me cry. All the research I’ve been doing about how we value ourselves is at the forefront of my mind as I viewed these images, I couldn’t help it.

Toledano has made portraits of people who have changed their physical appearances with lots of plastic surgery. I don’t agree with anything he has written about this series.

Perhaps we are creating a new kind of beauty. An amalgam of surgery, art, and popular culture? And if so, are the results the vanguard of human induced evolution?

These aren’t images of revolutionary human beings. These are sad, sad images about people who were so deeply unhappy with their appearance that they cut up their faces and attached body parts where there were none.

The low-key lighting is dark and serious. It’s a serious subject. This is how I want to shoot my images, definitely serious moody, low-key.






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Research: Questions on self-esteem

I hit a wall with my folio (in week 10 = breakdown) so I decided to change my idea around a little bit.

The concept of the dialectical self was my initial idea and I loved the thought of playing with opposites in my images but it just didn’t go the way I thought, so I’ve scrapped it. I realised it can’t just be about me (which I only did in the beginning to eliminate feeling like I was making a statement about self-esteem in general, turns out, if I’m making images it can’t really be avoided…)

I sent out this post on Facebook:

I’m doing a project on Self Esteem, and am in need of your opinions.
What specific outside influences do you think make you feel a bit inadequate, and consequently have a negative impact on your self esteem?
For example: scrolling through your Instagram feed and seeing pictures of Beyonce being perfect. It can be anything, having a major influence or seemingly insignificant.
This is just for research, no identities will be included. Inbox me if you prefer.
Thanks for helping!!

Here are some of the very honest responses:

If I think about it, I think mine stems from an idea of competition. Seeing someone do something better makes you feel inferior. For instance Dan being better at tacos, or a person you like talking to a much more attractive person. I guess it’s other people’s successes that make you doubt yourself and your own.

Creativity – feeling inadequate in a creative sense there are so many unique individuals out there with some brilliant projects and then reflecting on your inner creative being and feeling sad that you don’t dedicate enough of your time or take enough of a risk on yourself to get out there and do what your hearts desire,

Spending everyday of my life looking at endless photographs by photographers I will never be as awesome as and are usually younger than me and have traveled further than I have – All about success … as far as young photographers, anything by Francesca Woodman who was dead before she reached my age, James Friedman who was shooting since he was 9… There are loads of photographers that make me feel insecure. As far as beautiful women I get frustrated when I see film photos of pretty girls cos it hasn’t been edited and I cannot blame the marketing industry.

Body image in photos is a big one for me! Of others mostly. just looking at skinny beautiful girls and then uploading a photo of yourself makes me feel shit haha

A lot of expectation that has built up society to be what it is today Effects my self esteem. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure for girls to be perfect as cliche as that sounds. Like even silly things like farting, pooing, wanting to have sex, being angry things we all do and feel but to some people it’s shamed upon if your a girl and you are made to feel embarrassed and awkwardd

Yeah mine also stems back to mental health – not being to reach my potential due to the barriers it creates.
And when people talk about loosing weight infront of me LIKE HELLO HAVE U SEEN ME CAN U NOT. And I don’t mean them just being healthy either cos being healthy is awesome ! Just when they say things to fit in because that’s society’s ideal so they feel they have to be saying those kinda of things which makes me feel like I can’t feel good about myself at my size
‘I can’t eat this grape I won’t fit into my my size 4 pants’ *over exaggerates*

People like to believe it’s a quick fix like “maybe if you exercised more and ate better” I eat freaking incredibly and I’m still not well, if I was an antelope I’d have been eaten by a lion by now. Society isn’t geared to take care of individuals, it’s geared to take care of itself. You fall behind, you stay there. It’d be great to have the time to take care of myself and get well but that aint gonna happen because of where I live

The main thing that makes me feel this way is being on Facebook and seeing where the people I grew up with are in life in comparison to where I am. I tell myself a million times not to compare (and most of the time it works) but it’s hard when your good friend from a few years back is now married with a house and child and you are the same age and just barely finished school.
Also, I have had body issues since I was young. I’m a tall girl and members of my family always made it seem like I would be more attractive if I just lost a bit of weight. I like to eat and find it very difficult to diet so my emotions towards the issue, mixed with lack of motivation and seeing people who are fit on social media often makes me feel inadequate.
I also have certain issues from men I have seen in my past making me feel that way, mainly someone I was with for four years. My sister once said to me “Don’t be surprised when the guy chooses the skinny girl over you.” and he did. Throughout the relationship he spoke to many thinner girls behind my back and eventually left me for one.
It is a daily struggle to make myself feel adequate. I have come a long way in the last few years but it is something I still have an issue with.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel” I would say that’s been the most consistent battle for me. I find if I have a lot of down time or if I’m stuck doing the same thing over and over I start to feel panicked as though I won’t ever be able to break the cycle and that I’m being left behind while everyone is out having fun.

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Research: Terms & Definitions

self-esteem: The degree to which one values oneself. Note that although the word esteem carries the connotation of high worth or value, the combined form, self-esteem, refers to the full dimension and the degree of self-esteem (high or low) is usually specified. Contrast with self-apraisal, from which the evaluate component is absent.

self-efficacy: Bandura’s term for an individual’s sense of their abilities, of their capacity to deal with the particular sets of conditions that life puts before them.

The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd edn, 2001.

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Research: Self Estem


Today I met up with two professional psychologists. My sister Carlie, an ABA therapist at Learning for Life and her friend Brodie, a psychologist at OnPsych. They helped me with the definition of Self Esteem, and differentiate it from similar concepts such as Self Efficacy (comparing) and Body Image (which falls under the umbrella of self-esteem). Also that people are on different tiers of the self esteem scale (low, medium and high for example) and that a well-adjusted person’s self-esteem can still be negatively affected in a similar way as that of someone with a much lower sense of self-esteem.

Here is Brodie’s definition:

Self Esteem is all about physical appearance and physique (athletic ability) and it is impacted by relationships, culture, values and community. It is the idea of nature vs. nurture; part of self-esteem is innate (genetic) and part of it is environmental. 

For my folio I’m focusing solely on the outside, environmental factors negatively impacting self esteem.


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Inspiration: Patti Levey

I just read a great interview with photographer Patti Levey on ‘Self Portraiture and Healing’. 

“Besides being a tool for self-revelation and validation, self-portrait photography has always been the most satisfying, fascinating and intriguing form of creative expression for me because it most resembles the process of the unconscious.”

I like what she says about using photography as a way to reclaim her feelings, and in a way this relates to the work I am trying to make for my folio. Looking at self esteem not as a psychologist (obviously) but as a visual artist, trying to make sense of thought processes and drawing on the feeling of inadequacy for inspiration. This is proving to be very hard because I have to be a lot more vulnerable than I thought. However, I have also found that sometimes the most vulnerable images are the most creative and powerful. I certainly don’t think 16 weeks is enough to tackle this kind of project Patti Levey is still shooting 30 years later. I just hope I can get my point across. 

I love her series Mementomori. Personal images on a psychological state of mind that are beautiful and layered with meaning.







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Folio: Work in progress

Folio-1-2 Folio-1 Folio-2 Folio-3


For this shoot the aim was to show the interaction between the objects and the self, the self and the ‘other’.

The objects are representative of objects that, when we interact with them they bring about feelings of inadequacy and negatively impact self esteem (however seemingly innocuous).

For example: the image with the juice represents being healthy, the pressure to always make healthy choices. (After making this image I considered using an un-healthy choice, will explore this in further shoots).

The image with the magazine I think is the most successful. It is also the most different of the three. It is about the interaction between the self and the object, then the reaction almost immediately after….  It’s kind of warping my concept a bit. I think I have to scrap the idea about the dialectical self. It’s not as straightforward as I first thought, and once I started exploring it a bit more, I realised the idea around self esteem was working without that aspect in the mix. Hmmm..


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