Starring Myself

It is important to have a concept and plan in your head, so that you set up things quickly. Photograph/Gary Chapman

It is important to have a concept and plan in your head, so that you set up things quickly. Photograph/Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman showcases his set of quirky, humourous self portraits and shares their story along the way.

This story was originally published in November 2011.

My Assignment

  • Description: 23 weeks of crazy, self-humiliating portraits.
  • Duration: An ongoing project that I started early this year.
  • Notes: It is important to have fun. If you are not having fun, what is the point?

After a particularly fun-filled party on New Year’s Eve, I woke up feeling a little worse for the wear. I thought of a rather amusing idea to represent the way I felt—a series of self-portraits that look straight out of a comic movie.

I thought of giving myself the task of creating a 52-week project, with one photograph shot each week. By week 14 though, the constraints of the project started getting on my nerves and by week 23, I decided to scrap the 52-week idea and decided to work on my own time.

My Perspective
I have always been a huge fan of cinema and have even dreamt of being a filmmaker. I have never really had the looks for the lead role. Instead, I could be the comic relief, the goofy looking actor that plays a side role and makes people laugh. I tried to use this cartoon-like style in my photographs. If nothing else, I hope that my best photographs at least get a laugh.

The Process
The idea of shooting self-portraits was fun to begin with, but over time, I started wondering how I would make the pictures stand out. It was during the third week that I decided to experiment with Photoshop and use photomanipulation to convey the concept I had in mind.

The feedback I received after the first manipulated image was encouraging, and so, I decided to pursue this avenue. Soon, I realised that humiliation and embarrassment were the key themes behind the pictures. My mind seems to come up with ideas that are predominantly perverse and gory.

After shooting the initial images at home, I decided to try a few outdoor shoots as well. Preparation was another aspect I had to pay a lot of attention to. I realised that the right choice of props add the magic touch that every photograph deserves. Holding a beer bottle while falling down a cliff, an undergarment hanging out of a drawer—such tiny details can add that extra bit of humour to your photographs.

Creating one photograph a week did not seem like a difficult task to begin with, but it actually was! The best piece of equipment you can have is someone to help you out. For me, it was my friend Chris, whose ideas and help were invaluable during most of the shoots, especially on location, setting things up.

All the images were processed using Adobe Photoshop and a High Dynamic Range (HDR) software called Photomatix. Since I am not a big fan of overprocessed HDR photographs, I would blend the HDR image with the regular photograph to tone down the effect. This also gave the pictures a cartoon-like look that supports the kind of photographs that are there in my series.

For many photographs, if I did not have some creative Photoshop effect in mind, I would simply strip! The sight itself would make people burst into laughter. After shooting these 23 self portraits, I realised that photography is a great hobby, but it should be a lot of fun. Never let any project take that away from you.

My Equipment: I use a Canon EOS 7D with a Sigma AF 17–70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens.

While Working on Self Portraits

  • Use Humour: You can be as creative as you want. The crazier the idea, the better it is.
  • Keep Making Pictures: It is important that you keep shooting other pictures outside of the project as well. It will ensure that your ideas are fresh and you are never bored.
  • Think on Your Feet: Sometimes, things may not work out, so you should be able to change the idea at the last moment.

To see more of Gary’s self portraits, log on to

Tags: On Assignment, Unusual, November 2011, self portrait, funny, Gary Chapman, self-assignment, cinema