A Year of Monthly Creative Self Portraits

2023 Project: Themed monthly self portraits, tied exclusively to what I felt and mused about at that time period.

5/3/20246 min read

A year-long personal project

2023 was a lot of things, and it was all documented through this monthly creative self portrait project. The goal? Portray a "theme" visually, based on how that month went.

This is a highly personal project of creative self expression, and it immensely helped solidify my creative process and execution. It covers topics like mental health, hope, self-love, and more.

January was...

a fairytale

January was spent reading fantasy books, reflected in this fantasy adventure styled shoot.

It was the start of the year, and winters in Michigan can get very cold. In fact, this was shot the day after a snowstorm.
It was 20 degrees outside.

Although the cold was brutal and slowed the process immensely, I wanted to convey the fantasy story of a cloaked woman hunting in the snowy woods as a reference to my favorite book series.

February was...

a message on love

February is home to Valentine's Day.

It was a great opportunity to convey my thoughts on love in a visual form.

As with a lot of things, I have many thoughts on love. Without writing a novel here, love is simply acceptance of authenticity. “To be loved as I am,” in my mind, is a pure way to be shown love. Accepting someone or something and still continually moving towards them. I chose to convey this message with a white theme.

I'd like to note that love comes in many forms, not just romantically. Friends, family, your home, experiences, the environment, pets - they can all be loved just as deeply as a romantic partner.

March was...

a renewal

Life had been tumultuous to say the least, but with March came a new era. I wanted to turn feelings of pain, transformation, and healing into art.

The visual theme was centered on butterflies, a strong symbol for rebirth and transformation.

With a $7 thrifted outfit and thrifted bedsheets for a background, a dollar pack of paper butterflies, a sunset lamp and stockings over the lens, I created this dreamy hazy look.

April was...

on scars unseen

We all have silent burdens we carry. Some carry theirs so well that you could never imagine how crushing their heavy load is. Please be kind to others, and please be kind to yourself.

I’m vocal about mental health because I know too well what it’s like to be ill. I wanted to create art that speaks for me, something that others can relate to.

The point of this shoot was to highlight the internal wounds that we may not see. A reminder to be kind to others because you don’t know what someone is going through.

I want my photography to send a message. A lot of times I want it to be a hug, to let my viewer feel seen and understood. Even if just one person feels that way because of my art, then I’ve accomplished that goal on top of self expression.

May explored...

the artist's soul

I was deep in thought about what I think it means to be an artist.

To me, an artist translates the human soul. Their works are a culmination of their experiences and feelings in life, upbringing and culture.

So I've come to the conclusion that when you're looking at a piece of art, you're getting a glimpse into the artist's soul. You're seeing the culmination of experiences and events that make up that person, and I think that's beautiful.

For this shoot, the artist becomes the subject.

June featured...

The Wanderer

As someone whose birthday falls in June, it seemed right to have an identity-based shoot.

It's so easy for me to relate to a wanderer, someone drifting from place to place and exploring the vast world. No place or house has ever truly felt like home.

When I was at my lowest, photography became an excuse to go outside and see the world again. So now I wander, camera in hand, capturing the world through my unique perspective.

I based the theme around my favorite tarot card, The Hermit. It means introspection and looking within (in solitude). As I explore the outside world, I’m also exploring my mind and how it works.

July was...

spent traveling in Southeast Asia

July's creative self portraits were very different. It was extremely difficult to plan a themed shoot being out of the country with a hectic schedule. There were several strong ideas that I wanted to share, but in the end it proved to be too difficult to execute them.

Nevertheless, I did take regular selfies with both my phone and my edc (FUJI X20). So instead, for the month of July, I shared my favorite travel selfies, taken of me by me during times where I genuinely felt joy.

It really pained me to fall off the monthly planned shoots, but in life it is necessary to pick yourself back up and continue. In the end, I came back to one of the big reasons why I’m doing the 2023 monthly creative self portrait challenge in the first place: To have a visual diary of how my year went. With July being such a busy month for me, these travel photos are actually nice to look back on.


went by in a blur

August went by in such in a blur. On top of that, life also felt like a giant blurry mess at that time since there were a lot of things happening in my personal life, so “BLUR” became a very fitting concept for August.

September was...


Literally and figuratively, September became Lost. Due to attending a music festival called Lost Lands, I was unable to do a themed shoot for the month, so there was no shoot for September. I like to roll with the punches though, so this makeup shoot was shot in December. In addition to being a play on it being "lost," it also covers the concept of losing things and also becoming lost yourself.

With the roller coaster of a year, I’ve lost a lot and also found a lot. I know a lot of us have. And there has never been a greater point in my life where I have felt so Lost myself. Where do all the lost things go? What would we do once we’re found, if we’re found?

October was...


Every year, Inktober comes around for the month of October. And every year, I’d try to participate (but would eventually fall off). This was my own personal way of joining Inktober as a photographer in 2023. It’s a play on the wording (INKEDtober)! I had been meaning to do a tattoo tour for a while, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

To share with you my tattoos and their meanings is to share with you a part of myself. This is a collection of my skin poetry, as every piece has deep significance to me.

November looked...


As previously stated, I am vocal about mental health. November's theme was Hope, honoring the optimism and idea that where there is darkness there is also light, and that the tiniest candle can still illuminate the shadows. Even if you’ve been struggling in the abyss.

I create for self expression and to also help those like me feel seen and heard, acknowledged.

The monthly themes are based on how my entire month went, and to be honest my first choice of a theme for November was “despair”. But I wanted to be optimistic and share that optimism with my audience, so I opted for “hope” instead, since the month had plenty of both.

December was...

all about balance

My very first thought for December’s concept was the word “peace,” something I’ve been continually seeking for a while now. On the other hand, conflict seemed to also be a major theme for my month. In the end, I chose Balance to represent how it feels like to be on the cusp of both, represented by a balance of light and shadows.

A lovely mutual on Threads commented that I unintentionally channeled the phases of the moon, and I thought that was so beautiful.

If you checked out this project...

Thank you so much for your support!

This project means a lot to me and it not only helped me grow as a photographer, but it was also a way for me to process the past year.

I will continually be making self portraits through 2024 but in a different format as a part of my VISUAL POETRY 2024 project.

My handwritten signature, Ari
My handwritten signature, Ari