9 female self-portrait artists share their creations and insights
The art of self-portraiture encompasses a variety of skills, requiring input from the creator in all sorts of dimensions, such as modelling, overall composition and post-production.* Let us whisk you away to the ethereal realms of these incredibly talented female self-portrait creators; such realms encapsulate magical landscapes, fantastical concepts and captivating storytelling. These profiles include some words from the creatives themselves, on the topic of what draws them to create. In this article, I invite you to escape with me in enjoying their portrayals of worlds beyond this one. Perhaps you may even be inspired to try your hand at self-portraiture as well!
*We note some self-portrait creators may use assistants or outsource photographers for the camera work but the composition and direction remain their primary vision.
Anudari, a Mongolian based in North Germany, blends vampire-like aesthetics with fairytale visuals. In her work, she takes influences from all sorts of sources, including from her own culture. She sees herself as “possibly a vampire elf siren” and features spectacular locations around Germany.
“Fantasy has always been an escape for me. I grew up watching and reading all about fantastical worlds, enchanted by the beauty of them and the soothing balm they were for the heart. When I realised that I could also create them myself, I knew I wanted to try to give others a bit of that feeling with my work. It’s also an opportunity for me to learn about my own culture’s folklore and fairytales from which I felt removed for a long time, and then to share them with a wider audience. Bringing any bit of magic to people is why I love creating.” – Anudari
Sophia is a master at intriguing and imagination-evoking photography. A teen based in Seattle who espouses a love for “visual escapism”, Sophia creates narrative imagery that draws the viewer in. She becomes so many different characters and portrays diverse realms, often using words to complement her creations.
“I love being able to convey my interpretations of media through my own art. Usually through pictures or videos, the escapism aspect is something I have trouble articulating into words, and my visual projects really let me express myself. When I get in my photography headspace and I have a thorough understanding of my project’s concept, I get this rush of excitement because I get to see visual results for something that only previously existed in my head. One of my favourite things about being a creative person is also the relationships and connections I’ve made with other people who share similar passions!” – Sophia
Kalia is a Hmong photographer with a versatile voice. Her work ranges from beautiful wanderlust and cottagecore vibes to fine art creations celebrating heritage and folklore. She is endlessly exploring, bringing to her work a distinctive romantic element.
“I’ve always loved being in front of the camera as a child and teenager. I thought it was just a phase that I was going through at the time but I’m in my mid 20s now and I still love being in front of the camera. There’s something fascinating about transforming myself and showing a side of me that others don’t normally see. It’s my safe space that allows me to share a part of my vulnerability. I started off modelling for local photographers but I found that I didn’t want to always rely on others to create magic that I had in my creative mind because I am always bursting with inspiration from anything. I wanted to take control of my creative projects. That is how I became a self-portrait photographer and creator.” – Kalia
Mary Agoncillo works in film 3D lighting but indulges in self-portraiture as a playground for experimentation. In addition, this space allows her to push for representation on her own terms by being subject and photographer. Her stunning work makes use of clever composites and bold aesthetic choices for optimal effect.
“Self-portraiture is a space where I get to combine all the hobbies I love while exploring aesthetics that are normally not available to people that look like me. It is also a way of exploring myself in a space of double vulnerability as both artist and subject. Replicating myself through photos is a way of validating my body’s existence. It feels empowering that I can explore spaces like fantasy and fashion in a way that I have authority over. I work in film as a 3D Lighting Artist, so I also want to explore more 3D fashion!” – Maria
Canada-based Wen is on a journey towards meaning, sustainability and joy. She is living a low-waste van life and brings her followers to awe-inspiring locations. Her work is not only striking because it often makes use of colossal landscapes, but Wen also captures a oneness with nature, challenging us all to think about our role within it and our impact on our shared planet.
“On the surface, I create out of the belief that everyone has innate wildness, the whisperings of which are drowned by societal norms like busyness and limiting self-beliefs. By sharing my own intentional journey to connect with our planet, I hope to help others grow into their power to affect change, to protect our planet and its people.
On the deeper level, I also create to explore the duality of contentment and growth. I’m driven to share peaceful gratitude, an acceptance of who we are and what we have. Yet, while we practice self-love, we can also hold the intention to continue to grow into more intentional, thoughtfully connected humans.” – Wen
Rosa is a Filipino cosplayer, writer, YA librarian and historian, Based in the USA, her work is multifaceted, drawing from pop culture and history. Her costumes are incredibly rich and detailed, featuring a rich collection of sword, gun and archer props for many different transformations. Whether a Disney princess, pirate, mythical being or even the horrifying Lucille from Crimson Peak, Rosa is a clever chameleon when creating imagery.
“Creating is such an intrinsically human urge; it’s woven into our social instinct because it’s a way to connect, to become part of something bigger. For me, the motivation and process of creation has the added layer of my need to assert my visibility.
Growing up steeped in Western media, I rarely saw myself in the heroes, heroines, and titans that populated the stories we love. That convinced me, for the longest time. that my presence was non-existent in all the ways that mattered. As a result, I have constantly felt untethered to what I used to believe was the mainstream experience and the people who live it. Now I know better, I aim to build connections.
So I create. I create to push the boundaries of my abilities. I create to suggest new ways of looking at the world, new means of perceiving traditional ideas. I create to establish my existence. I create because I am here:
See me.” – Rosa
Heather is an artist, photographer and retoucher based in Kauai, Hawaii. She finds ways of incorporating nature and outdoor elements in her shoots inside, with dazzling results. Her work is expressive, avant-garde and striking, playing with form and texture whilst exploring the strength, yet also vulnerability, of new identities she becomes.
“Creating allows me to explore different concepts and intertwine through my visual mediums parts of my heritage and identity. There are times where concepts come out exactly how I envision them, but usually my shoots look one way in my head and come out completely different when it comes down to it. I love incorporating outdoor elements and blending them in my studio work, it allows me to create my own gardens, environments and imaginary worlds.” – Heather
Emily Flip is a Singapore-based photographer who strengthened her love of self-portraiture during the pandemic. Her slick, clean and crisp style commands the viewer’s attention but it is her ability to adapt her posing and expressions to different concepts that stirs the viewer’s emotions.
“Photography is an artistic self-expression for me as my mind is constantly filled with creative ideas! Ever since I picked it up, it has showed such a different side of the world to me and I started to find beauty or creative uses in non-conventional items. For example, fallen tree branches by the road that people don’t usually bother or take notice of!
Being creative lets me escape this fast-paced urban jungle and transports me into the fantasy realm. When the pandemic first hit and isolated us from each other, I took up self-portraits as a new skill as I was so creatively deprived after months of not photographing. It ended up becoming a new passion which rekindled my love for photography as it acts as a fun personal challenge now. I love to see how far I can go with it with only me in the ‘team’ and it’s so satisfying when the results turn out good!” – Emily
Victoria Misu is a living painting. Cleverly tying together multiple themes, she expertly coordinates light sources, gilded frames, smoke, mirrors, candles and flowers for mysterious and cinematic effects. Victoria takes inspiration from her own culture, still life and art of the Renaissance and Dutch masters, working in imagery and video content. The power of her work is amplified through her mixing music with her compositions. The results are timeless and romantic; Victoria is an innovator merging throwbacks from the past with her graceful aesthetic.
“Creating to me is a systematic way of allowing myself the time and literal space to become free in a way that, to me, is conducive to building up my foundation. It is also a way for me to display my understanding of my world, rather than allowing my skin and features to be constantly imposed upon by people who have not walked in my experience. It is a culmination of all the parts that I grew up loving – science, tech, colors, nonverbalized emotions. I incorporate mirrors and frames into my work because the mirrors harken back to an infinity, and the frames create a natural, fluid barrier that is familiar enough to gently transition through.” – Victoria