WORKS BY NINI BASEEMA
Artist Nini Baseema has taken on a unique challenge: Photograph yourself once per day for 365 days. You might think that photographing yourself every day for a year would become boring or mundane; however, in Ms. Baseema's case, it hasn't! Using various cameras and photographic techniques, her work is lively and intriguing. In fact, her series of photographs surprised us so much we interviewed her about the project You will find the rest of her Photo a Day images at http://oneselfportraitaday.tumblr.com/ and you can find out more about Nini in our guest artist catalog. - Vicki Baumgartner-Schaeffer, Guest Editor
(click on any image to see more photos)
INTERVIEW WITH NINI BASEEMA
For five months so far you've been making a self-portrait a day – can you tell us a few things that may have surprised you in this project so far? Anything you didn't expect when you started, or any difficulties – or nice surprises – along the way?
Shooting photos and self-portraits is something I have been doing for a long time now. I started in my early twenties with analog cameras (I used to have a lomo and a minox) - but with digital cameras becoming more and more popular, I switched over “to the other side” very quickly. I like to take a camera along with me wherever I go and tend to shoot whenever I am inspired – over the years I have developed a habit of creating a lot throughout the week.
Maybe I should mention at this point that I work in corporate communications for a living. It comes with updating platforms like the internet or intranet on a daily basis. I have been doing this for a long time now, so creating something every day is, for me, the most normal thing in life, and connecting it with one of my biggest hobbies - photography and self-portraits - only seemed logical to me! I can't say I have encountered many surprises ever since the challenge started. I'm basically doing what I'm doing all the time anyways and it feels very much like daily business for me.
What was unexpected in the project though is the fact that so many people joined. Within one week we were a group of 30 people. Some of them meanwhile have given up, but many are still in and it makes me very happy, as we all support each other and encourage the other to keep going. I am particularly psyched about the fact that four of my best friends are in the challenge. Sharing the results and the experience is what makes the effort special for me. It makes friends become something like family and that's just beautiful.
Has it been challenging to remember to take or make a portrait every day, or do you have it built into part of your daily routine at this point? Do you have a process for it? Are you keeping a personal journal, or just blogging the photos?
As I have mentioned before, producing content on a regular basis isn't really a new thing for me. One of course develops certain habits after a while. I tend to shoot and edit the photos in the evening hours during the week (as I usually come home from work very late and am not much of a morning bloomer to begin with). So, there is not much of “light” time for me from Monday to Friday. On the weekends however I try to get out and do something differently and be more flexible in my locations too.
I am blogging my photos in tumblr, and I am collecting them in a personal folder on my hard-drive. I also have a flickr profile where I upload a selection. Since I am already writing a lot for work, I decided against a proper journal. (If you're constantly contemplating on good phrases and sentences, then allowing yourself to remain silent for your spare-time projects makes sense, doesn't it?) But there are surely days too, when I feel like I have to say something of importance but, honestly, that doesn't happen very often. I hope that my pictures speak for themselves though!
Have there been any trends in the images that have been emerging from this project? Are there self-personas, characters, or parts of your life that seem to want to express themselves, or find form? Any surprises there?
I have always enjoyed playing with stereotypes very much and I think when looking at my photos one can see a certain humor and a predilection for philosophy (at least occasionally). But other than that I generally like to keep things diverse and entertaining, as I do get bored with my own face or just one style very quickly.
Due to the fact that I am quite busy throughout the week, many of my photos are created without proper staging or preparational efforts. It's not that I wouldn't enjoy that too, I just don't have the time for it! So naturally, what I often end up doing is compensating the lack of shooting time during the day with photoshop editing hours at night. I enjoy that very much though. Over the past months I have developed a liking for combining my photos with graphic design elements and the result is often more poster art then an actual photograph. But that's also a reflection of me being very much into graphic design and typography too, so it's still authentically “me” - even if not in such a typical way.
What equipment have you used to take the photos, and software? Do you have any preferences now after experimenting with this project?
I am a fan of compact cameras, as they allow the biggest flexibility for shooting self-portraits. I have never been much of a gadget nerd. I frankly don't really care for tools. I am more interested in stories, moods, and emotions, and I want that to transcend through the pictures. Whatever is there and works as a camera will do for me when I am inspired. I do retouch all my pictures with photoshop anyways. I enjoy experimenting with it a lot - just as much, if not more, than I enjoy taking photos.
For the gadget-interested among your readers: I have a Nikon P300 - a state of the art compact camera that I love very much, as its light sensitivity is exactly what I need. I also have a Pentax 10D SLR, but I hardly ever use it. It's just too heavy to carry around. And today I ordered a system camera - the Olympus PEN P1. It is a lot easier and smaller than a usual SLR, but still has lots of their features - it sounds like the perfect compromise to me!
Has this project influenced any other parts of your life so far, or your photography? What have you learned as a photographer? How about in your photo manipulations?
The project certainly has its impact on my private life. It requires a lot of time and that time can not be used for something else. I do try to include my friends and family into this “hobby” though, so I am not isolating myself completely in the process!
Artistically and in particular with regards to photo manipulation, I have already had a certain skill and a particular style before I began with the project. What I have learned in general (not just in 2011) is that “less is often more but not always”! A bit photo-retouching is often crucial, but overdoing it can definitely kill the photo and its storyline too.
It is very personal to share a self-portrait, especially on a daily basis. Have the images so far revealed any insights into yourself in this process? Or about others?
I do share a lot with the self-portraits; I am very aware of that. But I am artist enough to sublimate most of my ideas into something that is only transparent to myself or people that know me really well. I can get very frank but there are definitely things I will remain private about. I like taking sexy photos of myself for example, but I have my limits with regards to what I am willing to show publicly. I am not as conservative as it might sound – just rather private in that respect and overly aware of what an online publication can be turned into (comes with my job, I guess).
By the time this publishes you'll be farther along in this project – 365 days is the goal – but we are curious if at this point you've found some inspiration from this project for future work/ideas you want to explore at some point... either as part of this project or something else entirely.
I will definitely stay creative and try to stay flexible with my ideas, regardless if it's within this project or any other future business endeavor that I don't have on my radar yet... Being creative in my self-expression simply makes me happy!
If there is one thing I learned this year, then it's that I like the idea of collaborating with people very much, in particular if they are like-minded spirits and dear to my heart. It brings creation and social contact together, and that's a perfect mix to me!
With regards to the self-portraits, my dream is to finish the 365 days and then create something like a tea-book with the best of all shots, something people could look at when they are in a café and want light entertainment. And who knows, maybe that will happen at some point and if not, that's fine too. After all, it's mostly the process of creation that is the fix for me - the end result is just the nice by-product.
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