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Me, Myself & Monroe

18th February, 2012

I promised to return to my exploration of self portraiture and so here it begins…

A few weeks ago I raised the question as to how models and widely photographed celebrities manage to create the “sexy look” without looking gormless.  You know the look!  It’s not a stare but a smoulder, always sultry, sometimes with a suggestive tip of a finger in the mouth, a hand in the hair but without fail, looking too bloody hot to trot.

Take for example this article from The Daily Mail that features it’s picks of the top ten most iconic portraits of all time.  Their selection is debatable of course but for this particular case study it contains enough fodder for discourse.   Elizabeth Taylor has ‘it’, Angelina Jolie has ‘it’ and Marilyn Monroe most definitely has ‘it’.

I do not have it.

Since my year as the face of Curvy Kate and doing little bits of modelling I thought I might eventually get it.  Guess what, I still don’t have it.  Why does it elude me?!  The fact of the matter is when I don’t smile, my eyes look dead.  Like a cold wet fish.  Photographs of me not smiling give the impression that I want to punch you square in the face.  Not even close to ‘come to bed’ eyes more like ‘come any closer and I’ll rip your arm off’ eyes.

Let me prove my point.  The wonderful selection of portraits of Marilyn Monroe that were taken by Bert Stern are in fact fantastic and I took the opportunity to start my new exploration in to self portraiture with an attempt at re creating this format of imagery with images of myself.  Don’t laugh, I’m not even joking.

Let’s take a look at Marilyn:

To me she manages to be seductive, fun, flirtatious, vulnerable and very beautiful.  I don’t know of course how many pictures Bert Stern took of Marilyn to reach these twelve but I’m willing to put money on the fact that it wasn’t as many as I took to reach mine.  I tried to emulate the infamous beauty, which I accept is quite a task but hey, who likes to do things by halves?  As Marilyn had a prop, I tried some props…a hat, a pair of sunglasses, they were actually a big help although the hat less so!

Before I show you my final twelve, I’m going to share with you a few that clearly didn’t work.  Case in point, photo number one.

See, not smiling = dead eyes.  But wait!  There is something there…yes, if you look really closely and for a long time, definitely, it looks exactly like you’ve just said something stupid and I’m thinking “did you really just say that?”  So it turns out I am portraying something, but that something is most definitely not sex.

Next up is my usual photo face.  Please believe me when I say that there will be pictures of me on my wedding day with my middle finger up my nose.  Don’t ask me why I do it, I just do.  And there are far too many pictures of me doing it at every available opportunity.

I think we can all agree that this most certainly is NOT sexy.  And so we come to the images I was happy with.  To be completely honest, I don’t even know if I managed sexy after all the hundreds (no lie) of images I took.  The ones I was most happy with are the ones where the sunglasses are actually covering my eyes or I’m acting like a goofball.  Hopefully this is sexy to one person in particular or I’m screwed.

Here’s my Marilyn…but please, just call me Lizzie.

I didn’t edit them in any way, just cropped them square and played around with some polaroid formatting.  It was fun to put together even if I didn’t achieve what I set out to…I learned a little more about my own face and how it works best!  If I came close at any point it’s in the picture in the bottom right corner where you can hardly see my face.  Erm…good or bad?!  Let’s just call it an air of mystery shall we…

I’m going to continue to explore self-portraiture in different ways because as I have said before, I wrote my dissertation on female photographers who photograph themselves and find the subjects and their motivation hugely fascinating.  As for my motivation?  I wanted to start out in a light hearted way and honestly wanted to know if I could pull off sexy.  From this little exercise in my own front room it’s clear I can’t, but who knows, maybe one day I will…though I still think I look better when I smile!  Which brings me to my favourite photograph from the whole set, a relaxed pic I snapped on my phone whilst playing around with angles.

Concreting my own personal style of photography, it’s the casual ones I like the best. x

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