I have been a reptile girl since I was 5. I used to catch blue belly lizards in California and keep them as pets. I moved onto frogs, and snakes in West Virginia and would make my step dad pull over in the car so I could rescue the turtles that came out to walk on the roads during the rain storms.
I have no clear idea why reptiles have been my thing. And to be fair I really love all animals. I used to think I would grow up to work in a zoo. I'm a sucker for anything with a heartbeat really.
For some reason I have had snakes on the brain in the last little while. They came up repeatedly for some time and suddenly I knew I needed to do self portraits with snakes. I have never attempted to do self portraits nor been interested in them previously.
The irony that snakes represent the duality of good and evil is not lost on me. Growing up in a very strict cultish religion and having recovered from that, I have long felt that duality in myself. Snakes are also symbolic of both wisdom and death. The argument has been made that as the only significant predators of primates snakes were the symbol of danger and death that so many humans still are terrified of. Also they are therefore the symbol of death and rebirth.
That rebirth and transformation symbolism is where I found myself drawn in. As someone who identifies with the idea of rebirth, from leaving a religion I grew up in and then in other ways since then, it seemed an appropriate symbol for me to use.
As a, do I dare call myself, "creative" I have found myself torn. Torn in looking for more time, for relationships, making a living, trying to be a good mother and finding a creative outlet. I feel many others must know this feeling too. Anyone who wants to create in this world and also needs to be a mom first, have friends, cook dinner, pay bills, watch movies, paint the house, and shop for sneakers...feels torn. How do I find the time and energy for what I want to be and how I want to create? I feel resentful at times for the lack of time and all the demands on me. So I jumped into this session headlong, like most things I do. I followed the Nike slogan to " Just do it ".
It was way harder that I could have imagined. First I was terrified. Not of the snakes. In fact once I was holding them I relaxed completely. A nice side effect. No, the idea of taking portraits of myself was way more intimidating that I had expected. Also, everything was outside my control and moving fast. Tripod. Tethered camera to computer. Stylist. Snake wrangler. Friend to push the button every time I said so. There were about 500 photos of me talking or laughing or generally looking like a goob. Which is fine since I decided the out takes are some of my favorite shots! They crack me up. (: (I will post those soon too)
But the session taught me a lot. I learned that shooting with animals is a whole different ball game. It's all outside your control and you have to roll with it. That portraits with snakes can look cheesy really easily. (I have to work on that one) And that just doing something is the way to go. Because now I am so proud that I did it! That I did something that I wanted to but was intimidating. And now my head is full of ideas for further sessions. I want to work with more animals and more clients that want to do this with me. I feel inspired all over again. I know what I would change and what worked. Working with snakes was awesome. And I'm ready for the next venture. Whatever that may be. So... screw having too little time. I'm just going to plan the next project. Who's with me? (;
PS- A huge thank you to Dominic Kane who breeds snakes and brought them to me and patiently helped out. And my stylist and friend Stephanie Dudley of
who is an amazing stylist and just rolled with the snakes!
In life and love - Jen