format portrait


These are self portraits. And that’s important because I believe that images are a glimpse at the magic that happens when the mind, body, and spirit connect. The camera is only an extension of the eye, and this is how I see myself.

A few months ago I heard Kathleen Cleaver, a former Black Panther, speak at a local museum and as she spewed her feelings about “Formation”, calling it pornography, I recall feeling a disappointment so strong it nearly felt like grief. I felt similarly reading bell hooks’ criticisms of Beyoncé. I felt that ultimately they were expressing their disdain for me, women like me, and my/our own brand of feminism and autonomous expression. I don’t fit into any one box. Sometimes I am poised and polite. Sometimes I’m a bitch. Sometimes I am homely. Sometimes I’m scantily clad. Regardless, I am always wanting more for us. More respect, more love, more space and freedom. My attire does not negate that.

Kathleen Cleaver called Beyoncé’s lens, and ultimately my own, mindless. She called it disgusting. And the dank thickness of her tone has fixed itself in my memory. Wedged itself in my psyche. And I find myself, ever since, feeling apprehensive about being visible in my own skin.

These are self portraits. And that’s important because shame and internalized misogynoir are real. Respectability politics are real. And while I am a woman who can be agreeable to a fault, I’ve never had a talent for conforming.

This is not pornography. These are self portraits.

And that’s important.

That’s imperative.

Emerald Shaw
June 2016


Sandra and the misty sea.
December, 2015.

Back when I first met Sandra, we made a little photoshoot near the Barceloneta beach. We had a beautiful view of the misty sea, a rather uncommon view of the sunny Barcelona. I shoot some portraits of her with my Mamiya M645 and she did the same with her Mamiya RB67. It was funny to compare the weight and characteristics of our sister cameras :)

When I developed and scanned the roll, I found that all the photos had a very strange dotted pattern all over them. I still don’t know if something went wrong in the development or if the rolls that I used were faulty (I bought a bunch of Rollei rolls at the same time and this pattern happened with all of them, even using different chemicals). At the time, I was so depressed with life and photography that I didn’t wanted to share or do anything with them.

Now, I’ve realized that in film photography, there may be mistakes like this, but it’s all part of the process, and I’ve learned to accept them in a different way, as a part of an experimental work. I don’t seek perfection, in fact, one thing that I love about film photography is that it’s not perfect. It’s a completelly manual process, and accidents can happen. And they can give you some unexpected results, ones more pleasant than others. That’s part of the magic of chemical photography.


Night time is the best time.

Shot in San Francisco on the same roll of Portra 800 on my Mamiya C330, lovingly named Bergamot.

(1) Devin of Pentaxia in the mists of the Rainbow Manor (2) Astra of Pentaxia in the double exposed jungle of the Rainbow Manor (3) Megan, pausing in the darkness of SOMA.