When it came to time to discuss the cover for CLEOPATRA RULES! my wonderful editor, Larry Rosler,
1. What inspired you to photograph yourself in this way?
A couple of weeks before I took the self portrait, I was having a discussion about photography with my cousin Matthew Langford, who also happens to be a photographer himself. We were going through a number of self portraits taken by different photographers, and after we each described what we liked about these, he briefly mentioned that my self portraits were different from all the ones we had seen because I had a subtly exotic look to me.
About a week later, I went to New York City with my high school for our grad trip. I vaguely remember being in one of the street markets, and seeing the bracelet that I’m wearing in the picture. My thoughts automatically raced back to what Matt had told me, and I bought the bracelet with this photo shoot in mind. Once I got back home, I took nearly an hour and a half to do the make up (at that point I was really bad with it because I hadn’t had much practice), and got about 100 shots within approximately 20 minutes. Out of those 100, I found 2 that I really liked, one being the image that’s on the front cover. I posted the images on my Flickr account, dedicating the first to my cousin Matt who had a critical role in the creation of the image. You can find the image, as well as the other image that went with it, on my Flickr account here and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elizabethsalib/489105263/ , http://www.flickr.com/photos/elizabethsalib/485628928/ .
Just for the record, my father is actually Egyptian, and my mother Lebanese, so that would explain away the “exotic look” that I have.
2. There is such a strength and fierceness in the expression (which I love!). Were you striving for that or was that something in you that the camera picked up?
Ever since I began self portraiture, I always found it to be more about acting than anything else. At this stage in the game (when I took this self portrait), I was very bad with knowing what the images would turn out looking like, especially since I couldn’t see through the viewfinder of the camera. These pictures were all taken by literally holding out a camera, pointing it to my face, and snapping away as many pictures as I could. I’d change angles and expressions with every frame, and then look through about 10 at a time, only deleting the ones that were really bad. So I was aware of my expressions, but that was nearly the only thing I could control. I had no idea what the final image would look like, and so getting any good shots was a stroke of luck. This also made trying to duplicate images nearly impossible, because I could never seem to get the same angle twice.
3. What is your background in photography? Where do you live/work?
I have no educational background in photography. Everything I’ve done has been the result of hundreds of hours of practise, both with the camera and with Photoshop, and thousands of hours of viewing other people’s photography, trying to find inspiration.
I currently live in Toronto, and do portrait photography as a side business. I am doing a Philosophy specialist and English major at UofT, both completely unrelated topics to photography, and I’m hoping to get into graduate school for Philosophy.
4. What are your specialties?
My specialties are self portraiture and portraiture. I love taking pictures of people, although I do at times take landscapes or architecture shots. I always feel like images without people pale in comparison to well done portraits, however. I love capturing emotions, personalities, and moods. I think these three elements are what keep pictures of people fresh and unique.
5. How do you feel about your self-portrait being on the cover of Cleopatra Rules? Any reactions from friends and family?
I’ve been excited since I got email about it! When I started photography the first thing I thought was that I’d absolutely love to have my photographs on the covers of books and CDs, so this is a dream come true. Although you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, I know that when a person doesn’t know the title or author of a book, that really is the first thing that catches their attention. I’ve purchased books just because I’ve loved the front cover before. And being an English major, I have a deep appreciation for literature that makes me very humbled to be even such a small part of the publishing process.
My friends and family have had mixed reactions. All are obviously excited for me, but a few have ventured to say, “Your face is on the front cover of a children’s book? Isn’t that kind of weird?” After I show them the picture and they realize that half my face is covered, making me virtually unidentifiable, they then become a little more comfortable with the idea. Even though I take many self portraits, I’m actually quite self conscious about other people seeing them, so the fact that this picture got chosen over others where my face can be seen a little more clearly makes me a little more comfortable, too.