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Self Portraiture as a Creative Exercise (PHOTOS)

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JENNY BAUMAN
Jenny Bauman

A few years ago as I was just beginning my interest in photography, I perused my favorite photo-sharing site, Flickr, and noticed a trend. Many people -- the ones getting the most attention -- posted nothing but self-portraits. My initial reaction was negative. I figured it was nothing but vanity on the part of the photographers.

But as I dug a little deeper, I noticed that many of the people doing self-portraits were members of a group called "The 365 Project", which calls for taking a picture every day for an entire year. That got me thinking. Why would someone do this?

My background is in graphic design. I've been an artist my entire life, and I know all too well that we are all our own worst critic. I'm sure the same goes for photography. But the people doing the self-portrait project were not only critiquing their own photos, but their own photography of the one subject we're all most critical of: ourselves. Talk about a creative challenge!

I was intrigued. I really wanted to become a more creative photographer, and was itching for an artistic endeavor. So I dove in. At the time, all I had was a $200 point-and-shoot camera. I started the self-portrait project in September of 2008.

I found it to be incredibly difficult. I've always loathed pictures of myself, so I was really hard on myself when selecting photos to upload and share with the group. I really wanted to avoid the typical arm-length self portrait (way too cheesy for my taste), so I set out to do something off-the-wall and artistic every day. It was a lot of pressure.

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There were good days and bad days. There were days where I really didn't feel like doing it. But I pressed on and took my photos. Everything was done with a self-timer, and sometimes I had to take hundreds of shots to even find one decent one. But as the days went on, the photos got better and better.

Before I knew it I was feeling more creatively energized than ever before. My love of photography blossomed into a full-blown passion. The rewarding feeling from getting a great photograph of the ONE THING I was most critical of was such a buzz! The challenge became a bit of an addiction, and finding new creative ways to photograph the same thing every day really kept my creative muscle working.

I made it 224 days. Then life got in the way. Daily set-ups of complicated sets and extensive post-production became such a time suck, that I simply had to give myself a break. But it changed me as a photographer. Spending 224 days in a row stretching myself creatively in that way jump started something inside of me that I don't know if I'd have ever found otherwise.

I have since begun photographing professionally (albeit with much nicer equipment), and any time I find myself in a creative funk, I'll jump into the challenge again for a week or two.

These are some of my favorites from The 365 Challenge that I photographed. If you ever find yourself in a creative slump, give it a try!

To see more great photography visit HuffPost Exposure.