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‘Becoming Mel’ – A Self-Portrait Series That Examines The Face We Show The World

By Hanssie on December 24th 2014

Every morning, my alarm jostles me from bed, I press snooze for the nth time, yawn and stretch and try to talk myself into going for a run. I snuggle deeper under my blankets and hope the dogs didn’t hear the alarm. Once I finally peel myself from my bed, I stumble to the bathroom, bypass the mirror and try to rub the sleep from my eyes. There is no way I would want the world to see me in such a state, and thankfully, they don’t have to.


There aren’t many mornings where I can confidently face the world at large without my flat iron, mascara, some powder and other various little expensive pots of potions. Photographer Mel Keiser examines this dichotomy those two faces in her self-portrait series, Becoming Mel. Inspired by recent studies of the brain and identity, Keiser delves deep into the psyche to investigate the neuroscience of our identity and how we perceive ourselves and how we want to be perceived.

The series of self-portraits shows Keiser upon waking – tousled hair, smudged mascara from the night before that didn’t get completely removed, half closed eyes and then after she’s readied herself to face the world on the right – makeup done, hair brushed. “The first picture is taken immediately upon waking, before I have a mental concept of my identity or self-image,” says Keiser, “The second picture is taken after I begin to feel like ‘Mel,’ usually after my physical self begins to reflect what I believe ‘Mel’ looks like.”


Mel Keiser Mel Keiser

Over the course of 30 days, Keiser documents her “daily transformations” and repeats it when she feels that the “Mel on the right” no longer represents who she believes Mel to be in the present.

“My work is an investigation inward toward the unknowability of self and the subjectivity of self-identity.  Through repeated manipulations of my own image, I attempt to find the essential, invariable structure of what a ‘Mel’ is. To objectively perceive the self is generally understood as impossible: we are dichotomous beings in constant flux, aware of only a fraction of our cognitive activities. In making these works, I am both researcher and subject, analyst and analysand.  As such, my nearness to the subject makes me simultaneously the best and worst person to pursue this research.”

Mel Keiser Mel Keiser Mel Keiser Mel Keiser

To see more of the Becoming Mel series, check out Mel Keiser’s website here.

CREDITS : Photographs by Mel Keiser have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

[Via Feature Shoot]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jesper Ek

    Its hard to be true with so many expectations…

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  2. Jason Boa

    Incredible commitment ,

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  3. Troy Barboza

    I love this, it shows exactly what women do to themselves, and essentially put a mask on who and what they really are. Great read!

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  4. Rieshawn Williams

    Very interesting. I need to think of my photography project for next year!

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