Tips + Techniques

In One’s Own Skin: Beautifully Real Self Portraits

April 17, 2024

By Kara Marie Trombetta

I’ve long felt disenchanted with the contrived. I suppose that’s why I took a bit of time away from self portraits. It’s more challenging to capture something natural, authentic, and less curated when first you have to set up your camera, establish your camera settings, and get into place.

Recognizing that self portraits have always been the catalyst for evolution in my work, I’ve been making an effort to get back into them in a way that feels real to me.

So I set up my camera to fire a few hundred shots over 20 minutes while I flowed through my usual morning ritual — an intuitive yoga flow, stretching, contemplating, and being still when I felt inclined.

The result was interesting to me, especially when the images were composed together in a grid.

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit. Images © Kara Marie Trombetta

To the artists who can’t bear to look at themselves as the subject of their own art: Try again. Keep trying. See yourselves as you would any other subject. When you break your glorious figure down as lines and curves and light and composition, you will come to understand that when “you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” (Margery Williams Bianco), and you will wish you’d have come to that realization a lot sooner. It’s so much lighter on the other side.

Live like a masterpiece.

Kara Marie Trombetta is an American photographer based in Northern Italy whose black and white works explore the boundaries of art and boudoir. She is also a teacher with an approachable style. She recently spoke at WPPI and you can also find her courses in The Portrait Masters Store. Follow her on Instagram.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on Kara Marie’s blog.

[Read: The Boudoir Photography Empowerment Movement