Forty years of self-portraits

Story highlights

  • For the past 40 years, photographer Abby Robinson has been taking creative self-portraits
  • But they're not in chronological order; it's up to the viewer to create the narrative

(CNN)The excuses for a photographer to take a day off can be numerous -- the lighting is not perfect, the photographer is not feeling creative, or, perhaps most importantly, there is not a subject to photograph.

Abby Robinson's collection "AutoWorks" challenges that last barrier in the simplest way possible: She is the subject.
"Self-portraits prevent you from becoming lazy," the New York photographer said.
    Her photographs resemble ID pictures, reflecting the way the series identifies moments in Robinson's life over 40 years. The collection is not a documentary on aging, though. The pictures are purposefully presented without an order.
    "If you don't put them in chronological order, there remains a mystery about them," she said. "You don't have to know me to appreciate the pictures."
    Photographer Abby Robinson
    One of Robinson's first photo jobs, working for a private detective, influenced her desire to include mystery. Her audience must look for clues in the details in order to build a narrative.
    Placing the pictures in chronological order presents only one, rigid storyline. When the images are seemingly random in order, viewers can arrange them like clues, constructing innumerable narratives.
    One narrative that is not subject to interpretation is Robinson's unique entrance into photography. When she was an interior-design graduate student, Robinson contracted mononucleosis. Most of her instructors understood the situation and told her she could make up the missed work later. However, her photography teacher, Philip Perkis, was not so lenient.
    He said that as long as she could lift a camera, she could photograph in bed. That remark motivated Robinson to change her major to photography and begin this project.
    "I thought that was the most extraordinary thing at the time," Robinson said. "You didn't have to go anywhere to do work."