Meet the artist who turned classic portraits into gorgeous selfies

As a photographer, Giselle Noelle Morgan is usually behind the camera instead of in front of it; but her latest series, “Selfie Centered,” allowed her to do both — and the results are both beautiful and inspiring.

In a gorgeous series of self-shot portraits, Giselle imitates paintings from female artists of various artistic styles in an attempt to “move past the sexualization of the body and convey the same emotions of fear, ennui, desire, restlessness, and coyness that can be found within the original paintings,” according to a post she wrote for Bitchtopia. It’s lovely and empowering and all kinds of wonderful, and we can’t get enough of it.

“I had done self-portraits in the past, but wanted to elevate the female artists [who] had preceded me and made room for future women artists,” Giselle told HelloGiggles. “Combining these two elements of celebrating my own self-love and supporting female artists was the initial reason for the series.”

“I wasn’t invested in proving a theory, but exposing the visualization of women in the arts and the hardships of the female condition,” she continued.

After selecting which paintings to imitate, Giselle stocked up on the necessary materials to help recreate them as closely as possible (according to her, “silk fabrics, flowers, and a lot of hairspray!”). She kept to a strict schedule, and each shoot took up the majority of her day, between set dressing and and clean-up. Posing in the same position multiple times was no easy task, either: Giselle took 50-100 self-timer shots per day until she felt she’d captured what she’d envisioned.

“My mom was so lovely, running epsom salt baths at night and bringing me coffee every morning in bed,” she said. “The process was emotional and there were a lot of tears!”

To help narrow down her image selection, Giselle aimed to pick paintings that she felt she could best imitate and identify with — both from a physical and emotional perspective.

“Breaking down each piece was an experience that was somewhat cathartic since I was trying to put myself in the exact position of these women being captured,” she told us. “For example, ‘The Bather’ depicted this specific kind of fear that I’ve experienced as a young woman; a fear of being gazed upon, approached, or attacked when I’m at my most vulnerable.”

When asked why she called the series “Selfie Centered,” she was quick to clarify that the play on words goes far beyond smartphones and traditional ideas of vanity.

“I think selfie culture is about an individual’s presentation and personal archival of self love, and I was more invested in exposing my own experience of heartbreak, vulnerability, and fear as a woman artist, which was depicted in the specific paintings I chose to recreate,” she said. “I think female vanity is an interesting aspect of selfie culture, and in recreations of these great works it’s not so much focused on women’s vapid beauty, but an honest account of female heartbreak.”

“Male artists have historically depicted females as angelic muses, while women artists have produced more art that shows a realistic and honest representation of womanhood,” she continued. “Essentially, my idea of female vanity is based around the complexities of abandoning traditional male views that female vanity is a synonym for objectification.”

We absolutely loved what she achieved with the collection — and since we’re all about rad young artists doing amazing things with their work, we just had to ask Giselle a few more questions.

HG: How would you describe your art?

GNM: An account of femininity and the visualization of anxieties, beauty, and catharsis in entering adulthood.

HG: What is your main focus as an artist?

GNM: To create art that aligns with where I am at that particular time in my life, what’s going on in the world, and hopefully that creates self-reflection within the viewer. I’ve finished multiple series based around feminist concerns, gender identity, and personal strife. Moving forward, I’m becoming more invested in my growth as an individual. I want to convey this sticky phase between teenagehood and true adulthood, and how finding yourself affects the dynamic of family, friendships, and romantic relationships.

HG: What inspires you to make things?

GNM: My emotions! I am naturally a tender and sensitive person and am driven to emotional responses since these are genuine and authentic sensations. I’m also inspired by six photographs I sliced out of art books when I was fifteen. One photo in particular is always on my mind; it’s of this a woman in a plaid robe with old safety scissors in one hand and her chopped off ponytail in the other and she’s looking directly at the camera with such rawness. It’s haunting, alluring, and exceedingly influential to me.

HG: What are your favorite concepts to explore as an artist?

GNM: These concepts are constantly altering and shifting as I’m entering adulthood! Right now, I’m fascinated with exploring female isolation. I think there’s this specific kind of loneliness that women artists experience and I’m slowly beginning to comprehend what that means. An artist needs time to experience life and self-reflect, and I feel that women artists feel a greater sense of pain through the vessel of gender oppression. Female artists have to fight with such determination to get their work curated in a gallery and to receive the same commission a man would get for the same work, and the field is still heavily male-dominated.

HG: Any upcoming projects? 

GNM: Yes, I’m working on a continuation of “Selfie Centered” called “Period Pieces,” where I’ll be recreating paintings by female identified artists and adding the element of menstruation. I’m still in the research stage and will most likely begin shooting in May! This series will address the taboo subject of menstruation even though it’s vital to creation, progression, and nature.

For more of Giselle’s work, check out her blog, Instagram, and e-shop.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

(All images courtesy of Giselle Noelle Morgan.)