A Grim Twist on Self-Portraits

photo of man falling down

If you didn’t know the purpose behind these pictures, you’d think they were taken a split second before it all went wrong. Falling from buildings, off ladders, down a flight of stairs or off bridges on purpose doesn’t scream “prime self-portrait opportunity!” but it makes for an intriguing set of images.

Kerry Skarbakka is the daredevil, model and photographer behind these images. The series entitled The Struggle to Right Oneself shows Skarbakka in horrible situations, and some of them are definitely cringe-worth in my opinion, a little too real for comfort. “It is necessary to point out that I do not consider myself a glorified stuntman; nor do I wish to become a sacrifice to art,” he writes on his website. Thank goodness for that.

photo of someone jumping off the highway

Once everything is in place, he asks his girlfriend to take the shot, but he’s not above asking random strangers to press the shutter once in a while. “I ask [people], ‘Can you press the shutter when I look most compromised?’ which often gets a weird reaction,” says Skarbakka.

photo of man falling down the stairs

Why anyone would want to photograph themselves in such positions is beyond me, although he mentions that his falls are from relatively safe distances—seven feet more or less—and on location. Nevertheless, these photos are real in the sense that they aren’t just composites; he really did put himself in those situations, except we don’t get to see the ropes, safety gear and other rigging from behind the scenes. When the ropes do get caught in the shot, he Photoshops it out before he blows them up to near life-sized proportions to help transport viewers to the scene of the “accident”. Who wouldn’t want to feel like they’re seeing a fellow human being fall from a building, right?


Bumps and bruises are to be expected of people who put themselves in harrowing situations on purpose, but the worst injury he has sustained is a broken rib. I’d say that’s pretty good for someone who does his own ‘stunts’.

photo of someone jumping off bridge

The images stand as ominous messages and reminders that we are all vulnerable to losing our footing and grasp. Moreover, they convey the primal qualities of the human condition as a precarious balancing act between the struggle against our desire to survive and our fantasy to transcend our humanness.

You can view the whole series on his website.

Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.