strong, fast, sexy and smart

How do you feel about self-portraits?


It’s funny because I did a lot of them, most a bit dark and introspective, when studying art in college. I was an evaluative, self-reflective twenty-something realizing I didn’t know shit, on the heels of thinking I knew everything. I carved rough chunks of wood to look like my elbow. I took photos of torso. I stared myself in the eyes for hours, pencil in hand. It was a whole new world to look at myself.

And then that was that. Now, I have a blog and I write about and post photos of lots of things I think are beautiful. And, every rare time I post a photo of myself I feel a little silly. There is already so much of me here and my thirty-something ego usually feels like self-portraits are too too and I backspace. When I am in the photo, I don’t  just consider concept, feeling and craft, as I do all other photos I share. I am harder on myself, not overly self-conscious but I feel too look at me! or something.



However, I love thinking back on the exploration and experimentation of those college self-portraits (don’t get dirty with that sentence!). And I think about how different I now am. I was sucked into one of those weird late-night internet hop-arounds that landed me on this great blog post about self-portraiture (and I am pretty sure I found that post through this creative lady) that quieted my concerns and gave me the permission I needed, wanted to go, whether I share them here or not.

The photographer, Vivienne (which was nearly Margot’s name) shared a warning about about self-portraiture:

You might dance like no one is watching. You might find your voice. You might come to a place of peace with your reflection…You might stand at the shore of your potential and conclude that you are worth sticking with both the ebb and the flow. The biggest danger is this. You might see your beauty and document your truth.

These words I read just before my head hit pillow have come back to me many times over the last few weeks. And then I was by myself taking photos of lupine, hail, rain, mud, mountains and sky feeling a lot so I turned the camera and had so much fun doing all the things Vivienne said I could do.


I got this killer bathing suit from new sponsor, Popina, and this is what I said over email: OK, but I will not be posting a photo of me in a bathing suit and the kind, awesome, Portland people were just fine with this. But after meditating on what self-portraiture can be I thought, what if I could? What if I pushed myself to see my beauty and document my truth?

Also, I have to say I have never, ever in my whole life liked a bathing suit. Never wanted to move around in one, never wanted a photo of me in one. I have always tucked boobs into ill-fitting compartments and tugged at wonky seams. So in my 34th year I decided I wanted a suit I liked, for myself and for my daughters who learn from me. I don’t want to be twitchy in swimwear. Is it possible? I set out to make one, had a pattern drafted and fabric selected and the whole nine. But swimwear boutique Popina kept popping up here (available locally at Betty’s Divine) and there (on my friend’s blog) and then I snagged this opportunity and now I am publishing photos of myself in a bright red bathing suit on the interweb. Because I am strong, fast, sexy and smart in this suit.

This small west-coast business sells retro swimwear and vintage swimwear.  My suit is a Jantzen bathing suit. Thank you, Popina!

So, I dare you to take a photo of yourself feeling strong, fast, sexy and smart and share it. If inclined, post wherever you’d like and share the link in the comments here.

Wishing every last one of you a wonderful weekend.


:: :: ::

all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from

45 Responses to strong, fast, sexy and smart

  1. Minnesotagal says:

    You go girl!! You look beautiful and amazing and sexy and strong! Own it – you’re gorgeous!

  2. Minnesotagal says:

    Oh and the suit is pretty cute too…


  3. Katie says:

    As my 4 year old would say, “that is so supidy duper cute!” Adorable swimsuit. Love the retro look.

  4. DeRae says:

    I have a hard time taking photos of myself without putting them down. Picking out every imperfection, and then deleting them.
    I love the swimsuit! You look wonderful! I think I may need one…Happy Friday!

  5. Marjorie says:

    You look good in the suit! You have nothing to be self-conscious about. I think it’s really important to be confident about our bodies in front of our kids, even if we don’t feel that way. Kids pick up on everything and if you’re self-conscious they will be too.

  6. Courtney says:

    That shot of you in the suit! Gorgeous all the way around. The suit, the shot, the you!

  7. What a great post! Love the suit!! I wanted to say, I don’t think I could truly see ‘myself’ in portraits until I had my son. Now in photos, I’m forever catching that ‘true’ ‘uninhibited’ me.

    Here’s the one that surprised me most recently (not sexy or fast, but I do think it captures, free and strong):

    I call it vicarious joy (at the petting zoo!) LOL!

  8. Kelle says:

    Girl, you rock that sexy vamp suit. Shake it like a polaroid picture. Don’t even get me started on this topic…loved our chat. You know I am all for celebrating this post and you and a woman’s confidence. There is VERY obvious difference from “hey look at me!” and “i’m confident, i’m brave, i’m putting my exploration of life, self, art, love, etc. out there.” You scream the latter. And I’m so glad you do it. xoxo Now take that stance in the last pic and TWIRL. Like Maria vonfreakinTrapp at the top of the hill.

  9. Mindi says:

    You are so beautiful and sexy and strong!!!
    Amazing post…as always I am inspired by your words.

  10. TRB Holt says:

    What a great post….I love your confidence in your ideas, writings & that red swimsuit!


  11. Sarah says:

    Love that suit on you! You have inspired me to work on self-portraiture :)

  12. April says:

    Beautiful! I love those old-style swim suits. Watching Mad Men makes me laugh at Jantzen but that’s a snazzy suit!

  13. FinnyKnits says:

    I totally admire you for recognizing the important role you play for your daughters – setting an example of how to be confident and proud in your own skin is something I don’t think a lot of girls get from their mothers.

    I mean, it doesn’t hurt that their mama is a spicy hot dish, but still – feeling like a spicy hot dish is not always the easiest.

    So – brava! The suit is gorgeous, you are gorgeous and those girls are going to be a force to reckon with.

    Also I’m going to go look at these suits.

    For the record, I can remember 1 time in my whole life when I looked in the mirror and thought, “Hot damn. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with what I see. I look great. Perfect even.”

    I was 17 and in the bathroom at a restaurant during the pre-prom dinner with my date and friends.

    I wore a gold full length halter dress and my date told me I looked like an actual trophy.

    I just wish I’d stood in front of that mirror longer. It was a great moment of YES.

  14. Tina says:

    LOVE your bathing suit! The red suits you perfectly. Beautiful! I have a very similar suit that I got from Target but mine is black. I LOVE it and it is the first bathing suit I’ve actually felt pretty comfortable in for years!

    If I come up with a photo of myself to share, I will… but don’t count on one of me in my bathing suit. LOL.

  15. Maria says:

    Great, GREAT post! You look beautiful in every picture.

  16. That swimsuit is fantastic! And you are fantastic in it!
    I think those self portraits are going to be wonderful later on when you look back and remember where you were, and where you have gone in life.

  17. colette says:

    beautiful woman, you are. i love the suit!

    i featured some photos of myself on a recent post of mine.

    being my girl’s mom makes me feel sexy, strong, smart, beautiful.

    thanks for being an empowering, inspiring woman. your girls are sure to follow suit.

  18. Colleen says:

    Fantastic post. And girl, you are rocking that swimsuit!

  19. I can feel your roar, and I love it!

  20. Jessica says:

    I think that’s awesome! (and I love that bathing suit..)
    I am trying so hard to be careful how I feel about myself, talk about myself, talk about others…
    I worry enough about the things my kids will see and hear when they venture past our doors into the influence of society. So, self portraiture I will do…maybe I’ll even let the kids take the picture :)

  21. deztractions says:

    wow! i may accept the challenge but i will be waaaaay off in the distance or behind a tree.

  22. Lizzy Vega says:

    You are so gorgeous and I LOVE the bathing suit — By the way, when are you bringing that bathing suit to Naples?? Want to read more of the Kelle/Digthischick adventures!

    I am going to take this challenge by the way. I know I’m going to feel weird and awkward…but if I survived the goofy years between 11-14, then I can feel free to show myself at 33! Let’s do this — I’m jumping in!!

  23. Tammi says:

    I took Vivienne’s You Are Your Own Muse class earlier this year and LOVED it. January was such a good time to slow down, reflect and be introspective. Love your photos and the suit. Hot mama.

  24. Ellie says:

    So I’ll be the sole dissenter and say that this stuff makes me uncomfortable, but I’ll hasten to say that I am not sure what makes me uncomfortable and I am pretty sure my discomfort says more about me (way more about me) than about you. I love reading about your garden, your kids, your appreciation of life and the world and the people in your world. I’m just not all that keen on the whole self-portrait thing. I hope that’s alright to say.

  25. You know what I love about Vivienne McMaster? Aside from her amazing approach to life and the gifts that she continually offers, of course…

    She used to work as a doula. And it shows. I have witnessed (and experienced)how she stands by and coaxes the artist to come into the world. Her You Are Your Own Muse course completely changed my life and how I view taking photographs of myself. I can’t recommend it enough. Seriously. And you can bet I stand in line to sign on for whatever she’s got cookin’ up next.

    I love what Viv says about self portraiture: that it’s not about taking glamorous photos of yourself, of making yourself look beautiful in every single shot. It’s about capturing an accurate representation of who you are. Sometimes it can be frightening to examine that. Self portraiture is an experience, not a result. It takes an immense amount of courage to say the least.

    Nici, I have always admired how you are so willing to step in front of the camera. That, and Vivienne’s philosophy about narrative photography, were the inspirations that brought me to take her workshops. She’s amazing and I can’t wait to see what bubbles up on your end.

    Thanks for sharing this. <3

  26. Caroline says:

    fantastic. absolutely LOVE this!!!

  27. Shaylen, Totally sexy and fast. Love it. Thanks for sharing.

    Ellie, Totally alright to say. That’s what the comments are for! It makes me a little uncomfortable too but in an interesting and good way, like I want to evaluate that and push myself a bit, open myself up to it and maybe connect with others through writing about it in my space. I always enjoy hearing what works for other people, their perspectives. Thanks!

    Finny, Your comments are always among my favorites. I want to see a photo of your trophy self. I adore that description, your memory of that reflection. Also, my prom dress was full-length halter and silver. You take first.

  28. Nici,

    I love that your blog posts include so many pictures of you and that I’d recognize you walking down the street.

    I also love what you’re exploring here, you wise, gorgeous woman.

  29. colette says:

    thanks for your feedback on my blog! i appreciate your kind words. always love what you have to write and the pictures you share. beautiful and inspiring.

  30. jen says:

    off to read more …
    and dude. you are rocking that suit. i’ve never felt entirely comfortable in a suit either. though this year … i’m over it. i’ve had THREE kids. naturally. THREE KIDS. my body is what it is. it’s me. and though i’m trying to be healthier … it’s no longer about changing the way i look … now it’s all about being a healthier mama for my kids.
    though … i would love to have a suit that i love myself in. so i should probably go explore that site too, huh??
    xoxo, friend.

  31. This post takes a whole lot of strength. And I commend you for taking the time to push yourself as a woman as an artist and as a mom. You look amazing in the scarlet red suit. You wear retro well – you need your red lips for sure (Which I missed in your first 2 self portrait shots!)

    Like many of us, we’ve all been there with the ebb and flow of loving and hating our bodies or our perceived beauty. However, I feel stronger after motherhood than ever before. I’m an ex-ballet dancer who had to cross a distance of destroying my physical self to discover I am A-OK. I ultimately left dancing b/c I learned that I didn’t need anyone telling me that I’m too fat to have self worth. I’ve always missed the art of dance, just not the bullshit.

    So this past week I was attempting my first self portrait just because I felt very pretty in my new white skirt. And it’s hard. Hard to physically perform. And harder yet not to be too hard on myself. Nothing downloaded yet. Yet. To come.

    You are like a prism. I never know what light will shine, but I enjoy all the hues emanating from what shines through you. Thanks Nici.

    -Jennifer from Annapolis

  32. elise says:

    I’ve been tempted by those cute bathing suits on Kelle’s blog many times, but seeing it here pushes me over the edge. Now I NEED one. Super cute!

  33. rebecca says:

    ,,,i love your truth, photos, art, garden, family and red swimsuit, enjoy it!,,,

  34. Love this post! Also, love Popina’s Swinwear and someday, some how I will own one of their suits! :) Awesome to see some beautiful self portraits of you. :)

  35. sweetnektar says:

    I love this post!! I too have at times struggled with self portraiture thinking it has to look perfect or depict me in a certain way. Only recently have I released that and taken my pics to represent me in the MOMENT in that given space of TIME. Look at you!! Go girl, you are amazing!

  36. Holly Taylor says:

    It must be something to do with the age as I am 33 and feel like the last three years I have been learning to love and accept my beauty inside. Recently I have been trying to do the same for the outside. Still working on that one!
    Love the picture and the suit and love the topic! Its so important for us as moms to truly know, accept and relish in who we are inside and out.

  37. Volpe Family says:

    Time to come clean. I read your blog. I usually read cooking blogs or blogs from friends. Once I saw the link to your blog, I could not let it go. It inspires me to follow my gritty road through motherhood and figuring out what I want in my life. I have a hard time finding people where I live that inspire me to be what I am and show me life through such a unpretentious lense. You have really given me a lot and I wanted to thank you. I’ll be having a baby in a few weeks and although I dont feel fast I do feel sexy and smart among other things. Motherhood is about as good as it gets and I know that I’ll get the fast back after I get some slow time with my new child.

  38. KWQR says:

    Love love LOVE this! You look amazing in the swimsuit. It always surprises me when beautiful, strong, gorgeous women have a hard time seeing those qualities in themselves. From the outside it seems so clear… but I know firsthand how from the inside it can be a foggy mess of “but I hate my… or this is too big/small/wide/narrow.” We are so much more than our physical selves. Something I need to remember as I dodge my own camera lens!
    p.s. Thanks for stopping by the other night… your comments always make me smile!

  39. Minnesotagal says:

    Ok – here you go. Self portrait last shot of the blog… For once I didn’t airbrush. I owned it. And surprisingly I love it!

  40. Bikini By 30 says:

    Rock on your fab suit you amazing inspiring lady!

  41. Lucy says:

    Wow! This post is both powerful and inspiring! I, too, struggle with self-portraits and it’s just something I need to get over.

    The suit, by the way, looks wonderful on you and I admire your strength and confidence!

    Happy Tuesday!

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