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Capturing You

February 16, 2010

I’m a fan of Karen Walrond and have been reading her blog for quite some time. She’s recently started answering anonymous (or not) questions on formspring. Here’s a recent question and her answer that really spoke to me:

What is the most frustrating thing about being photographer for you?

The most frustrating thing about being a photographer is that people rarely see their own beauty when you take their picture of them — they’re far quicker to zero in on the mole or the laughlines they hate than the fact that they just have a great face, or a warm smile. I shot a wedding for someone as a gift once, and even though she was radiant, when she saw the final pictures, all she saw was that she hadn’t lost the weight she’d wanted to before her wedding. I still haven’t put together the album as a result!

This is something that I really struggle with all the time. I can tell you a million reasons why I dislike the way I look. Some of them will be about cruel friends during my formative years, others might mention dieting since I was twelve, but the fact is, there’s no excuse for me to feel the way I feel except that I keep perpetuating ideas that other people put in my head. Or maybe they didn’t even do that and I just chose to believe it for so many years. Nonetheless, I loathe to have my picture taken so much that two years ago, when we first started creative therapy here’s the art I made for the very first catalyst which was about “something you lost.”

Here’s the journaling:
I am the girl behind the camera. I am the one who takes photos I capture the moments I preserve the memories. There was a time when I was in front of the lens. When I let people take my photo, but now when I see a photo of me I cringe. I see all the flaws all the fat all the ugliness. I lost the ability to see myself clearly. I can’t remember what it felt like to look at the photo and see me. I miss that.

Every word of that is so true. Over the years I’ve made so many attempts at making peace with seeing myself in photos. For the longest time, it was a “I need this to feel good about myself” thing.

But now that I’m a scrapbooker and our family’s “memory preserver” I realize that having photos of me is not just about feeling better about myself. It’s so much more than that. Imagine if (God forbid!) something happens to my mom and there are only a handful photos of her and they are many years apart? I would be devastated. To me, every single photo of my mother is breathtaking. It’s not about whether her makeup is perfect or every stand of hair is in the right place, it’s about my mother. How she looked over the years, how much her soul shines through each photo, how much I cherish her smile, the glimmer in her eyes. How I can almost hear her when I see the photo. Almost smell her, even. I love looking at photos of my mom from her childhood, her youth, from all the years when we were kids, teenagers, married and everything in between. Who am I to deny that to my own kids?

When I look at a photo of myself, it’s true that I always see my huge, crooked nose. My uneven and thick eyebrows. My funny smile and messed up hair. I see all the blotches. I see everything wrong. But if I look deep down, I know that it’s important to document this, too. These stages of my life. Of our life. I know that even I will cherish having these photos years from now.

In the spirit of taking a solid step forward, I asked my husband to take photos of me and our youngest today:

Yep, I still cringe a lot when I look at that. I think that it will be a while before that goes away (if ever.) but I’m no longer letting that stop me from taking these photos. I was here, I existed and these photos are proof of my life and my stories. As someone who believes in documenting life, I cannot leave such a big hole in mine.

So, my challenge to you today is to get a photo of yourself. Hand over the camera to someone else. Put it on a table with a self-timer. Find a reflective surface. Do whatever you need to do to snap that shot. You are worth it. And I promise it will be good for your soul.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2010 9:42 am

    What I see is a beautiful woman with a gorgeous smile who obviously loves her baby very much. And didn’t you hear? – thick eyebrows are back “in”!

  2. February 16, 2010 10:14 am

    I think your beautiful too, so much of who you are inside shines through.
    I also get envious of your gorgeous thick hair and radiant smile…oh and you have great teeth too.
    The only thing that gets me in front of the camera now is that I will regret it when I am sixty and thinking back to when I was “young and thin” as it is all relative. When I was 19 and really was young and thin I hid from the camera and regret that too.

  3. February 16, 2010 1:29 pm

    That is such a beautiful warm photo – the love shines out of your face and your little one.

  4. Gab permalink
    April 3, 2010 3:01 am

    You look beautiful and that is such a great photo

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