“The greatest danger, that of losing one’s own self, may pass off quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, that of an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc., is sure to be noticed.”

Soren Kierkegaard

As a photographer I am conscious of framing.  I look for natural frames, for delineations, for that ‘golden mean’ and I think about how things will be framed on my computer or on a wall.  These frames are used to define and separate.  I use them to make clear my vision for a particular image – this is not that, it does not merge into the other, it is separate and therefore clear. It has boundaries and clarity.

As people, how do we frame ourselves? Do we create clear frames around ourselves and our vision?

My weakness is not establishing these ‘frames’ to delineate me.  As a partner it is too easy for me to submerge myself within the ‘other’.  I call it ‘making the relationship work’, but in reality it is a loss of self, a denial of my value within the partnership.  As a mother, my body  became not my own, but an incubator for the life of another, then after birth, a source of nourishment dedicated physically to another.  At work, I worked within a system that required times and plans and set communication processes; later I became a repository for others weaknesses and fears, helping them clarify their lives.

These all demands I accepted, believing that this was my role in life, my work.  In that process I began to lose the framing that made me ‘me’ and not the other.

As children we are taught to put ourselves last, to care for others, to be considerate and thoughtful.  We are taught to fit in, to conform, not to stand out for fear of ridicule.  Rarely do our parents teach us to put our own needs first, our own self ahead of others – it would be rude and selfish.  So how and when do we start to learn about creating boundaries for ourselves?

For me, this is the most difficult lesson to learn.  I can frame and re-frame things to create difference and separation for others and in my images.  But making myself clear and distinct, my vision clearly expressed… these are the hard parts.

I need to find the parts of me that are me, and separate them from ‘other’.  ‘Other’ is not just people, but expectations, societal obligations and norms.  Some of these are so deeply ingrained that I am not sure if they are ‘me’ or ‘other’.  Separating these parts is a process of analysis, of examining each belief, thought and action to see where, why, how I decide to do or not do, be or not be.

The cost of not doing this sad, and sometimes, destructive work is the loss of me, the loss of self.  I would be just an anonymous undifferentiated  cell, not respected, not valued, merely useful.  Is this enough?

No, I will keep working, keeping framing.