For most of us, the idea of never having seen a photograph of yourself is a completely foreign concept. Cell phones, Snapchat and selfie sticks may be becoming ubiquitous here in the Western world, but in many parts of the world there still exists people who have never seen a photograph of themselves.
Well-traveled photojournalist Berta Tilmantaite is out to change that with her project “First Photograph.” Tillmantaite said that “while traveling in Asia, a lot of people used to ask to take their photos. Then they would thank and smile or ask to see themselves on the screen of the camera.” After being asked by some of her subjects if they could have the actual photograph, instead of just look at it on camera, Tillmantaite decided to begin carrying a small portable printer so the images could be printed and presented to the subjects.
Coming from the world of photojournalism Tllmantaite says that usually she strays away from posed, curated images. But stated that “this time is different – we let people prepare, change their clothes or make hair.” In addition to allowing the subjects to get all dolled up, they also “ask them where and how they want a photograph to be taken, so they also become a part of the creative process.”
Perhaps the best part of the whole project is the gratitude exhibited from the people who’ve just been giving a gift most of us would take for granted. Tilmantaite says that most people’s reaction to their gift is: “Very beautiful!” And that is quite unusual for me to hear as I’m more used to “Delete it I don’t like how I look.” How refreshing.