Single Mother Finds Happiness Again By Creating Artistic Self-Portraits
Mary Bel is a self-portrait photographer who explores her own personal issues and projects her discoveries through introspection. Her work is dark, mysterious, painterly, conceptual, and unique in her perspective on the world. “Creating self-portraits is how I manifest what I’ve learned through my self-development, so others can learn from me. I hope to inspire others to keep trying to achieve their heightened selves, and go passionately and boldly into that self-awareness to help overcome internal demons and mental illness”
In her work, Mary demonstrates a longing for a version of comfort within oneself when your perception of what happiness looks like is shattered. Bel used this pain as a paintbrush, and herself as the muse or model to create portraits and images that capture the feeling of being alone. Her self-portraits are a documentation of her establishing her independence from others while growing out of long periods of loneliness. Her lust for life is focused on the idea of being honest, with, and about herself. She hopes to use her uncompromising honesty to inspire others to push to reach their highest selves.
Mary Bel lives in the Orlando/Kissimmee area of Florida where she is the subject of her work. Her self-portraits are a reflection of not only her growth in finding self-love after a divorce, but showing others a unique perspective on inner growth by placing a visual to her reflection, to solidify the significance and meaning behind her thoughts and experiences through the journey of self-discovery.
Bel’s photographic journey began while going through a divorce. She wanted to pick up photography as a hobby, but felt she needed practice before working with models or families. She watched tutorials, read books, and attended workshops in order to increase her knowledge of photography and she started practicing the techniques she learned on herself. Mary wanted to escape the turmoil of her personal life by taking images. After a long day of work, cooking dinner, helping kids with homework, and putting them to bed, Mary locked herself in her bedroom, placed her camera on a tripod, and used a remote to fire the trigger. She eventually started experimented with speedlights, and gradually moved the lights off the camera. Then over time, added modifiers in order to mold the light.
She always desired to be a painter or illustrator, but was never any good at physically drawing. So she used photoshop as a way to digitally enhance herself into places and also turn her emotional feelings into something physical that others can also see. Mary started sharing these images on Facebook where it seemed to resonate with many people, so she kept documenting her own journey of self-discovery and healing through self-portraits.
Today, her fine art prints have been displayed in Miami Art Week, she has been a featured artist in Orlando art galleries, she has won a Photoshop Guru Award, and has received a mentoring session from Brooke Shaden.
“For as long as I can remember, I was always interested in creating art. However, I never thought it came easy to me. I struggled with drawing the most simplest of figurers. Although I could not produce the images I saw in my head into physical manifestation, I gravitated towards studying artists instead. I studied Italian Baroque paintings, surrealist artist. I loved the way the light intertwined in the image and was used to tell a story by highlighting the most prominent part, and allowing the shadows to subdue other parts of the images.”
Mary Bel worked in the Art History department of Fordham University in New York as she pursued a Bachelors and Masters degree in Arts. During her time there, she studied under distinct Art Historians, absorbing information from their speeches, syllabus, student interactions, and sorting through Art History slides in the department library which is a clear influence on her work as you can see.
In This Section, Mary Has Broken Down The Process For How She Created Her Image “The Tribe”
Tell Us A Bit About This Image?
The title of this image is called “The Tribe”. It is a self-portrait showing how important it is to surround yourself like-minded people who will hold you up when you are feeling down.
What Inspired You To Take The Shot?
This image was inspired by the people who support my quirkiness and eccentric way of demonstrating my unusual thinking. It is because of these people, that propels me to excel forward and keep harnessing my creative conceptual work. Members of this tribe reach out to me to see if I am okay, they ask about new work, or actively express concern when my work highlights a streak of my inner screams and calls for help.
What Gear Did You Use For The Shot Including Lighting?
Tell Us About The Editing Process?
I have a YouTube video, (below), that shows the editing process. I took pictures of my hands from different angles and cut them out individually. I intentionally shot my hands as if they are holding up a body. Which was the premise for the shot. In order to make it really look realistic, I used a pillow as a makeshift body to add a sense of realism to the molding of the fingers. I cut out my body and placed it in a dark background. I added a little bit of light streaks to the image, to emphasize my tribe lifting me and pushing me towards my purpose.
Mary is a single mom of 2 teenage kids, works full time, and finds a small glimpse of love, through self-portraiture. Like the famous self-portrait artist Frida Kahlo, a life-altering event thrust Mary Bel into a space of darkness, emptiness, pain. Mary Bel ‘s work serves almost as a metaphor about the sleeping reality we live in. It demonstrates oneself waking up from the reality that had been instilled in us. It challenges the viewers to think on their own, and follow a personal journey that will lead to self-fulfillment.