Self Portrait Reflective Essay and Indesign Project

The Meaning of Aaron

It is easy to look at the world around us and describe what we see. We are presented with a challenge when the spotlight is turned on ourselves, trying to discern what makes you who you are. The introspective journey of creating a self portrait has been one that truly made me sit back and think about what has shaped me into who I am today. There have been so many opportunities and people that have shaped the course of my life, but being in my dorm room two hours away from my home restricted those options. I had to look deeper and become more creative, thinking about what describes me on a more personal level on an everyday basis. At first I wished I was at home to be able to take photos that describes what defines me best: a relational base. I have formed relationships with so many people that have influenced who I am, but as I sat in my dorm room alone, I became content with the objects I had to work with. I photographed many things that describe who I am externally and internally, finding things that have surface meaning but have depth as well.

As I began my initial survey of my room, I realized there was a lot more items than I had pictured in my mind. When you go through life tenaciously, not slowing down to realize what is all around you, it is easy to miss things. Little things that I had forgotten I had brought with me to college came into view, and I wondered how this was the first time I have even glanced at them. My first object I decided to photograph was what I consider my worldly base. I took a photo of the American flag hanging in my room. I didn’t want to have it be the cliché ‘land of the free home of the brave’ kind of thing, but more of a thought about how I have been shaped by the environment I was born into. America is the land of opportunities, and being an American is something I am very thankful for and proud of.

I will admit that at the time I had no rhyme or reason in the order I took my photographs, but instead was just searching for things that would help describe who I am. My next object was a stop sign. This object holds multiple meanings for me. Whenever anyone walks in my dorm they ask if we stole it, and the truth is that we absolutely did not. This reflects on my fear of punishment and respect for the law. I like to joke as if I am a rebellious college student, but in all reality I am the farthest from it. My roommate and I bought the stop sign at a thrift shop for decoration. Also in regard to the law, I have only had one infringement with the authorities of any sort. I wasn’t even pulled over, but a policeman came to my home and issued an “off the record warning” because a lady on a walk thought I was texting and called the police. When the officer confronted me about the charge, I explained that I was taking a picture of the sunrise. He did not believe me but when I offered to show him the picture he became flustered. I was very embarrassed about the scenario at first but with years passing I have found it very comical.

Steve Jobs has had an influence on my life as well as many others I know. A lot of my free times revolves around his inventions. My academic and social journey through life would not be the same if he had not spent countless hours in his garage designing what would soon change the world. The photo is of my laptop, and I attempted to take the photo with an ominous dark light surrounding the laptop representing the fallen Steve Jobs. I was very pleased with the product and am thankful for his talents.

Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to drink it because I didn’t want it to stunt my growth. Now in college, I feel as if that belief is true I might begin shrinking due to how much coffee I consume. I begin every morning with the magic of the Keurig, and by 2:00 pm I am on the hunt for at least two shots of espresso. Depending on my homework load I will either get one or two more shots to keep my brain functioning until it is time to sleep it off and do it all again the next day. I have fallen into a slippery slope of dependence on the “drug”, and the only end in sight for this dependency is graduation. Deep down I know it will not end then either, as the working world often provides free coffee in work lounges.

I was essentially born with four senses. My parents realized I could not see anything farther than five feet away from me late into my childhood, I blame my inability to play sports on this. I was ushered into the world of glasses but from an early age I have been using contact lenses. When my sophomore year of college began I did not expect to wear my glasses to class, because I did not like they way they looked. An eye infection caused me to not be able to wear my contacts for a few weeks. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I thought that maybe all I needed to see was right there in front of me. So as to not look into the distance but focus on what is readily present. At first this seemed like a good idea, but I eventually turned to my glasses for support when I could not read anything on the board in any of my classes. I reluctantly chose them as my answer during my period of healing.

The next two objects I photographed have a two distinct correlation: mileage and relationships. College produces many lifestyle changes. I purchased my first car, and within months of the purchase I put over 5,000 miles on it. At the end of last year I began a relationship with a girl whose family lives in Northern Minnesota, and I knew I would have to purchase a reliable car if I wanted to make the long distance summer work. I also purchased new running shoes, and with a steady increase of mileage each run I worked my way to running my first half marathon. I am training to run my next half marathon in a week, with my girlfriend. Both photographs hold much more meaning than what you would imagine them holding at first glance. One last fun fact, I hate running.

The core of my belief system revolves around my faith. When I was presented with this assignment of a self portrait, one of the first things I knew I had to incorporate was my bible. It is my foundation and has been my guide throughout my life. I am grateful that I have parents who helped instill these beliefs in me from a young age. I know for a fact that I am the man that I am today because of the path God has laid out for me. It most certainly has not been an easy road, and just this year I have gained clarity and peace that has strengthened a once strained relationship with God. Losing my best friend in high school in a car crash shattered my faith, but with guidance and prayer I have chosen to be thankful for the time God let me spend with Blake.

I am always looking for new opportunities, and I figured that the depiction of an open door is a good representation of that. I became very involved from the moment I began my college career, and one of the opportunities I was able to partake in was the creation of a short film. I entered a script into a screenwriting competition, and my script revolved around Blake’s death. I was selected to create my short film, and my photo of movies represents how much of a respect I have for filmmakers and cinema. It was one of the greatest experiences attempting to create a film of my own, one that I will never forget. I also submerged myself in an alternate reality of movies, reaching out for inspiration and developed a love and passion for movies. A wonderful quote from Jean Luc-Godard describes it best, “Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.”

My exploration came to a cease, and as I sat down looking through my pictures, I fell silent. Simply taking the time to dissect little things that make up my life was more than just an assignment. I realized that I have been too engulfed in looking forward to what will happen in the future I have lost sight of how beautiful life is right now. I have lost sight of what has gotten me where I am and what keeps me who I am. My self portrait means much more than the 10 photos will ever show.

Aaron Van Maanen indesign project-2


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