Suddenly my mother squeals, “Nooooo!” and makes her escape. “Oh come on, please have your photo taken with us!” we plead. But she adamantly refuses. And thus, several years of family life are photographed with our mother absent from the pictures.
Then I started doing the same thing myself. I don’t love being photographed and about two years of my life are missing from pictures – I regret that now – the same way my mother regrets her absence from the family album.
The truth is, for many of us being photographed, it’s an awkward and uncomfortable experience. We’re so critical of our own appearance and looking at pictures of ourselves can often feel painful.
Yet I look at photos of myself from ten years ago – and I wonder why I ever thought I was unattractive and fat. So now I look at my changing face and my lumps and bumps with far kinder eyes, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll look back in another ten years time and wonder what my problem was.
When we look at photographs of ourselves and see only the bad, the unworthy, the ugly and fat, we abuse ourselves again and again. So many painful elements of our lives could be healed with a little compassion, and nowhere is that needed more than in the way we look at ourselves. If we can’t show ourselves compassion, how can we offer it to anyone else?
There are pieces of my life, of me, I wish to remember. I believe photographs can give us a tangible form of memories, something to hold onto. But this extends far beyond ourselves. It extends to the ones we leave behind.
The people who love us don’t view us with our own selective vision, they see all of us; the stories we created together. These days I allow myself to be photographed because I want to look back on these moments. I want the people I love, who remain after I’m gone, to be able to look back, too.
There’s another reason I feel we should all embrace being captured on camera: we are all worthy of being seen. We plead for mainstream media to represent us at all ages and in all shapes and sizes. We applaud mature models with unique looks, but then we hide ourselves away when it comes to personal photographs.
Being photographed is not an act of narcissistic self-indulgence. It’s an important message that says we’re worthy, not despite our grey hair, wrinkles, flaws and quirks, but because of them.
It’s time to see ourselves with kinder eyes.