Autobiographical Portraits

Autobiographical Portraits

2048 1365 Karmen Van Derven

Recently, I find myself struggling with my creative self expression vs. the sessions that pay the bills. I do my very best to stay inspired by ALL of my clients to give them a fun, giggle filled experience they can truly remember, as well as the photos of themselves celebrating their love, their life, and their most cherished moments. But there are moments I capture that tug at my heart, because I don’t have those photos. I start feeling I missed out on capturing something in my own memory bank that I can’t get back.

I get sentimental that I am invisible in so many of my children’s memories.


It’s hard to give over moment after moment of mommy after mommy loving their children and being loved in their family environments. My children have so many wonderful memories captured of their father’s love for them, FOR I AM RELENTLESS. And I do my best to selfie the sh*t out of them all the time so I can get in some kind of frame with them, but I feel the fear of missing out and regret sometimes when I capture the sweetness of a dandelion given, a tear wiped, sweet squeeze. My children are already growing up so fast and there are so many moments I have captured for others that have already passed me by.

And there is something so deep in those feelings of those pictures I am missing.

Something that used to haunt me.

Then I learned to call on this emotion every once in while to do something more.

I don’t know if you would call it a “Subject as Self Portrait”, or maybe an “Autobiographical Portrait”, but basically I find a muse, I dress her in my clothes, and jewelry, turn her face to the side or crop out her head completely, and I make her a vision of my own carnation. I recreate that moment I miss with a model I can’t tell isn’t me, and a baby or child or circumstance I can’t tell isn’t mine. I shroud my subject in dreamy gauzy memory haze and I give myself those pictures the best way I know how. My moments are lost but my memories are vivid, and just by recreating them, I capture little pieces of my soul that make me whole.


Sometimes, I can even feel these moments in random shoots with clients. More than empathy for this mother and her situation in life right now, I feel connection to her – a deeper bond, an artistic chemistry. Tapping into my own lost moments, recreating them, making them real enough again yet caught in an ether.

This is a project that heals me in the places I hide from myself.


These have become my favorite pieces, and they have changed the direction of how I see everything when I shoot. Because somehow, using someone else, I am telling my own story.

The one story I sometimes forget to tell.

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Karmen Van Derven

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