Asya Schween

Angst, they said, write about the angst. Why not, I thought – I surely sleep well, have a great appetite and show no signs of depression – but again, why not. So let’s talk about the angst.

Let's first rewind to early 90s for a second: rebellious adolescence, coercive violin lessons, specialized physics school and the never-ending sequence of math & physics contests. “No pressure!”, my dad used to say, “No pressure, it’s only fun”. And yet I knew that winning is oh-so-important for everyone around me – my mom and dad, my school teachers and also myself. Succeeding was a test of skills and spirit, a product of shrewd work, not just wishful thinking. Feeling anxious and insecure, regardless of the place I took, I never reveled in my victories and always drained to the dregs the fullest cup of woe when I was loosing. I dreaded to move on, as the next year would bring another round of competitions and exams. “You are your own worst critic”, my parents used to say, and still I knew that only scores and rating, the places I took and the medals I won were the true reflections of me.

I’m now 25. I have two master degrees and a PhD, I live thousands of miles away from home and speak a foreign tongue. I no longer compete. I do enjoy photography, though I reluctantly share it and prefer not to sell my prints. I mostly hear praises and accolades and, understandably, enjoy them.

“Look within! Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig”, said Aurelius. Apparently, Marcus did not have parents like mine or else "Look within!" would never exist and be mass-produced in cheap paperback for omnivorous ersatz intelligentsia. In fact, my parents took great pains in weaning me away from this pernicious addiction to masturbatory self-searching and self-examinations and still do up to this day. And yet every time I take a selfportrait, I see something new. Catching it, however, often seems like an insurmountable task. In the world with no judges, no ratings and no second places, when you are one on one with your creation, you can only win or lose. So when I rarely succeed to capture the subtlety of my happiness, satisfaction, contentment, anger, anxiety or whatever it is within me – I feel like I’ve conquered myself. It sometimes takes days and a dozen of different lighting diagrams and angles, and then hours of retouching/color correcting/brushing in Photoshop to get the image look the way I have it in my mind. But all of my reflections, regardless of how disturbing or equivocal they appear, are my own little medals that I value above my education, my career goals and the flawless and thoroughbred image that was so zealously yet precariously glued to me. I’d like to finish with a quote from Vincent Gallo: "Either way, I would hope that my work, the thing I make so many sacrifices for, would outshine my dull, uninteresting, predictable, petty, small-minded personality. In other words, I hope my work is much more interesting than me."

About The Author

Asya Schween is a 25 year-old photographer located in South Central, LA. She has a Ph.D in Bioinformatics, Masters degrees in Applied Math and Computational Biology and a Bachelors in Physics. You can visit her Deviant Art portfolio at

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