2012’s new personal project: Self-portrait 52

Week 6/52: UNDULATE (suggested by David Thomas)

Un-du-late: To have a wave-like appearance or form

A bit nerve-wracking to do this one – my first nude! It was nice to be able to incorporate my new rib tattoo – making sure that 12 hours of pain wasn’t for nothing!

Week 5/52: SPACEDUST (suggested by Joanne Jefford)

This one was loads of fun to do. ‘Spacedust’ immediately made me think of glitter so I grabbed a big tube of gold glitter out of Joe’s art and craft box, smothered my face in moisturiser to make my face a bit sticky and then coated my whole face in glitter (have always wanted to do this!) Once I’d taken the photo, I then selected the bottom half of the image (my cheek and nose) where there are no features, just glitter, copied this and laid it as a new layer over the original photo, increasing the size so it covered the whole image, then adjusted the opacity so that the original image showed through and the opaque glittery layer acted as a dusty texture over the top. It took me days to fully get rid of all the glitter!

Week 4/52: BICYCLE (suggested by Gemma Williams)

Initially I wanted to use the spokes of a bike to make some sort of pattern but after a few unsuccessful attempts I had to give up on that idea as it just didn’t work (or at least I couldn’t get it to work!) In the end I decided to take inspiration from the movement of a bike’s wheels going round and round, set my camera on a long exposure (approx 1.5 seconds) and quickly rotated the camera around 360 degrees in front of me, leaving it still in front of me for a little longer to make the upright version of my face show through a little more. It produced some really strange colours and swirls – none of these are photoshopped, it was all created in-camera. All I really needed to do in post-processing was to increase the clarity in Lightroom to bring out my features a little sharper, and to use the Burn tool in Photoshop to emphasise my eyes. I really like the end result, even if I do look like some kind of creepy psychotic ghost!

Week 3/52: WHIZZPOP (suggested by Claire Scanlon)

Right, so week 3’s word was really no easier than the first two terrors! Claire suggested the rather wonderful word ‘Whizzpop’, which, as many of you will know, comes from the legendary Roald Dahl’s The BFG (Big Friendly Giant). A wonderful word – yes. An easy self-portrait word – no. For those of you unfamiliar with ‘whizzpopping’ here is a little excerpt from The BFG where the BFG gives Sophie some frobscottle, a giant’s fizzy drink where the bubbles move downwards instead of upwards:

“With frobscottle,” Sophie said, “the bubbles in your tummy will be going downwards and that could have a far nastier result.”
“Why nasty?” asked the BFG, frowning.
“Because,” Sophie said, blushing a little, “if they go down instead of up, they’ll be coming out of somewhere else with an even louder and ruder noise.”
“A whizzpopper!” cried the BFG, beaming at her. “Us giants is making whizzpoppers all the time! Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. It is music in our ears!” […] He removed the cork and took a tremendous gurgling swig.
“It’s glummy!” he cried. “I love it!”
For a few moments, the Big Friendly Giant stood quite still, and a look of absolute ecstasy began to spread over his long wrinkly face. Then suddenly the heavens opened and he let fly with a series of the loudest and rudest noises Sophie had ever heard in her life […] But most astonishing of all, the force of the explosions actually lifted the enormous giant clear off his feet, like a rocket.

Now, call me prudish, but I really felt there was very little I could do or would want to do to pursue in images the flatulent element of ‘whizzpopping’. But the shooting up into the air like a rocket was something I felt I could work with…. hence this week’s self-portrait. Hope you like it!

Week 2/52: GLOCKENSPIEL (suggested by Tom Mason)

Another stinker of a word for this second week – glockenspiel??!! An image of me playing a glockenspiel wasn’t really feasible, partly because I don’t own one any more and partly because I just couldn’t think of how to make it into a particularly interesting self-portrait. So I started thinking about the different qualities of a glockenspiel and after a few dead-end trains of thought involving music and sound I finally decided to go with the shape of the keys as a starting point – the straight strips like slats with the gaps between. I had originally planned to paint strips onto my own body (god knows how this would have turned out!) but then Adam suggested thinking about light shining through the gaps, which I loved (thereby also redeeming himself after the chicken nugget suggestion last week…) So here is the end result…

Week 1/52: NUGGET (suggested by Theresa Furey)

Nugget??!!! Bloody nugget???!!! A tricky one to start off with, thanks Theresa haha! After a couple of hours of wondering what on earth I could do with this, and a few unhelpful suggestions from my fella (“What about one of you eating a chicken nugget?”) I ended up thinking about gold nuggets, and this ring of mine popped into my head. Thank you so much Theresa for being my first ‘boss’!


Ok so new year, new personal project!

Last year I absolutely loved doing my 365 project and one thing it has made me vow to do is always to have at least one personal project running. So the end of 2011 and the arrival of 2012 meant out with the old, in with the new, and a new personal project needed to be devised.

To decide what to do, I reviewed how I felt about 2011’s 365 project, to try to work out what worked really well for me and what didn’t work so much, and came up with the following conclusions:

What I liked:

  • FREEDOM – being able to photograph absolutely anything
  • PLEASURE – rediscovery of passion and enjoyment of shooting just for myself
  • DISCIPLINE – having to produce images on a regular basis
  • CREATIVITY – challenge of trying to present objects and feelings in an interesting way
  • THERAPEUTIC OUTLET – channel of expression for personal feelings
  • VARIETY – the range of different kinds of images produced

What I didn’t like so much:

  • DAILY TASK – the challenge of producing an image every day became pretty onerous as the months went on and as a result I felt like I was going through the motions a little on some days and resented the project
  • SUBJECTS – many days I felt like I was being very unimaginative and often ended up just photographing objects and items. I would have liked to have included more portraiture in the project.
  • LACK OF TECHNICAL CHALLENGE – it was challenging creatively in terms of finding the subjects and thinking about how to present them, but it wasn’t particularly technically challenging
  • FAILURE OF SELF-PORTRAIT PROJECT – this really bothers me, I can’t stand not seeing something through to the end! I intended this to run alongside the 365 project and in the early months I really got into it and felt that I was making progress, but it kind of floundered around April time and ended up just being absorbed into the 365 project. In retrospect I think it’s better for me to concentrate on just one project at a time.
  • DOCUMENTATION – most of my professional work is very much documentary – I respond to what is going on at the time and document it in the way that I see it. In this respect, the 365 project was mostly the same as this – documenting things that happened on that day. It would be nice to create some images that do not aim to document, but that are more artistic and conceptual, as this is something that I have done far less of and would like to experiment with.
  • TOO MUCH CONTROL – I enjoyed the freedom of choosing what to photograph, but often it felt as though I had almost too much choice and lack of focus. Having so much control over potential subject matter actually made me lazy rather than sharp. It would have been nice to have the kick up the backside of working creatively to someone else’s brief and direction.
  • NO CLEAR LINK BETWEEN IMAGES – although I loved the variety of images in the project, I would like to produce a set of images that are varied but have a more coherent and tight link between them.

How this informed the new 2012 project:

  • Weekly rather than daily photo
  • More technical challenge
  • Handing some of the control over to others
  • Conceptual work rather than documentary
  • Clear and specific brief
  • Personal focus
  • Images that are varied but still coherent as a set

Sooooo….. I came up with….



I felt that the weekly timescale is both less onerous after a year of daily photos, but also gives me time to really think each image through and produce something more polished and carefully crafted. Doing self-portraits ticks lots of boxes for me – it enables me to make up for the abandoned 2011 self-portrait project, and throws me a much greater technical challenge as they are really bloody tricky to do! It also provides a clear coherent theme throughout all the different pictures and keeps a personal and portraiture focus to the project. Getting the themes from readers also ticks lots of boxes – it makes the project more interactive – it’s always more fun to do things with other people! It removes some of the control from me and hands it over to others, making sure that I don’t get lazy. Using a different reader each week injects lots of variety to the project and having a specific theme to work to makes each image conceptual rather than documentary and gives me a clear focus.

When I asked for the random words from people on facebook and twitter, it was to get the year’s themes! I didn’t want to say what it was for as I thought this might influence people’s choice of words, making them think of outcomes rather than starting points. I also thought it would be more challenging for me this way as I knew I would get lots of really obscure and tricky words rather than typical ‘theme’ words which might have been suggested if people had know what they were for. Looking at the weird and wonderful words suggested I’m now wondering if this was a good idea haha! I took every single one down (other than having to censor Pete Smyth‘s filthy suggestion, no surprises there!) and will work through them strictly in the order they were suggested, choosing just one word from each reader where more than one were given, so that each week is directed by someone different. This produced 49 words, and for the last 3 I chose my favourites from the extras that people had submitted. Thank you so much everyone who chipped in, I really appreciate you helping me to get the project off the ground!

So, without further ado… the first image of project Self-Portrait 52……


  1. Gemma Williams

    Haha! This is a brilliant project idea! I am so excited to see what you come up with for my word! Good luck for 2012 xxx

  2. Laura {Babb Photo}

    Beautiful. And I think it’s great that you’re trying to work more conceptually – it’s great to push yourself out of your comfort zone and I’m hoping to do the same thing in 2012 with a new personal project.

    I wonder whether my suggestion made it into this list and how on earth you’ll work with it if it did!


  3. Chrissy

    Great idea Anna. I really loved the self portraits from last years 365 so I’m looking forward to tuning in every week to see these. Good luck with the project, I’m sure it will be fabulous. I’ve decided to do a 365 project this year to document/ create images of baby Esme. I’m already struggling 4 days in :-/


  4. Anna

    Haha yes Sasquatch is indeed on the list Laura – I’m wondering exactly the same as you haha! Might have to grow a bit more body hair in the interim 😉 !

  5. Elen

    After having just read the suggested words on your facebook page (a few of which I had to google!), I can’t wait to see what you come up with over the next year!

    I’m sure they will all be as gorgeous as this first one. Just hoping that ‘earwax’ didn’t make the cut….

  6. Anna

    Thankfully the lady who suggested ‘earwax’ also suggested another, ‘treacle’, and I’m only accepting one per person so treacle won it. Thank god she sent in two!

  7. Katy Lunsford

    Really looking forward to seeing this! it will certainly stretch and challenge. Love what you’ve done with the first one. Good luck! xx

  8. Alex

    Anna! Some girls and I were talking on Facebook earlier this week and have decided to do the same thing!! AHHH! Scary, but I can’t wait! I’m so happy and excited to see you doing the same thing. At least you got through your 365 project! Mine was a major fail haha! Hopefully I’ll be better this time 🙂 Big hugs

  9. jo-Anne Bilham

    I love the first one and the whole concept. Looking forward to see how you use your amazing photographic talents in a more artist and conceptual way… It’ll excitedly wait to see the next! Jo x

  10. Naomi Kenton

    I really want to do something like this too now! Not sure if I’ll be able to make the 365, so I might just do it based on ‘about a girl’ my life in pics roughly one every few days, but that sounds soooo boring and I’ll prob not get enough creative stuff in there – really love your concept though and look forward to seeing your pics! x

  11. Tracey Barrow

    Having just completed a 365 self portrait project I totally understand how you feel! I think the idea of a weekly one is brilliant and I may have to steal it from you at some point! Love your interpretation of the words thus far!

    T x

  12. Natalia

    These are wonderful! Will definitely be following this series!



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Manchester family photographer, for down-to-earth, adventurous, big-hearted families all across the North West, London and UK

Creative, documentary family photography in Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, London

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