Thursday, November 3, 2011

Imperfect Pictures

One of my greatest dislikes, along with bananas and lasagne, is having my photo taken. Loathe, loathe, loathe having my photo taken.

I'm the first to admit that most of this comes from having zero self-esteem or self-worth over the years. Thinking that you are the ugliest, smelliest, most useless person that ever walked the planet doesn't do great things for you when it comes to making your mark on the world. Knowing that you're not particularly photogenic doesn't help either - but I've had a pathalogical fear of having my photo taken for many years. I liken it to being from a long lost tribe who believes that the camera steals your soul - which has been a short story idea for a long time too.

Because of this irrational fear, with the exception of the odd school photo, and the odd sneaky shot, I have very, very few photos of myself for the last forty years. Unfortunately, the bulk of the photos of me taken before the age of seven were destroyed in a caravan fire - my grandparents had taken the photos on a grey nomad trip around Australia - they were all destroyed. Years of dodging the camera have meant that there are next to no shots of me though university, my twenties or my thirties. Never getting engaged or married or having children or going on holidays with anybody means I've escaped the camera for the most part - actively, vocally avoiding I them for what seems like ever.

I also don't have photos around my house. I have a couple of photos of my nieces on my book case taken a few years ago and there are some shots of friends on the fridge. From what I know, my mother has one shot of me on the side board. I've tried to steal it away on many occasions because I'm embarrassed about the monobrow...

I'll also admit to having a real hatred of seeing myself in photos - so much so that I've been known to rip them up, detroy the negatives and burn the evidence or throw tantrums until friends get rid of them - yes, it was that bad. There is a part of me that just didn't want to face the truth as to how big I'd got, just as there was a part of me who felt like my existence wasn't justified.

Thank goodness that has changed.

Another incedent in my twenties has made me reticent to go anywhere near a camera. Having your work head shot plastered onto hard core pornographic shots and distributed around the company didn't do anything for my liking of having my photo taken either. The incident nearly had somebody fired (if it wasn't London in the 90's and in today's politically correct world the consequences would have been far more severe) and left me scarred for life. I still refuse to have my photo taken or published in any sort of corporate capacity other than ID cards.

It's only in the last few years that I have got a little better about having photos taken. Not much, but a bit better. I've been known to untag photos on facebook, rather than demand that they be taken off entirely, and I've even posted the odd photo of myself - though I do vet them carefully. I'm still not really that taken with being photographed, but it's not something that sends me into a mad, tear-filled frenzy any more.

I know that it's an irrational fear. I know that it's stupid - but having my photo taken still fills me with dread.

So this week has left me feeling rather rattled. I know that my passport needs renewing - the sooner the better. I also got notification that my driver's licences is also up for renewal. And starting a new role in a secure building meant a new photo for a new ID tag - another photo.

Three of the buggers.

The familiar feeling of horror has been sitting with me for a while. Two of these photos will last ten years. Not that anybody really sees them or looks at them, but the thought that they will be around to haunt me fills me with dread.

Okay, my last passport photo was tolerable, even I can see that. I know how much I weighed when I had the photo taken - a strange fact since it was some ten years ago - and I'm happily six or seven kilos lighter now. My last licence shot was a complete dog. Almost at my heaviest, I look miserable. I'm really thankful that this licence shot is being retired. It's truly dreadful. I think I can count five chins.

Then today, on entering the new building, for the new role, after walking the three kilometres to work, somewhat red faced and sweaty, the security guy said I needed to have my photo taken for the new pass.

I was flummoxed. No getting out of it. Argh. Everybody working in this building needs this pass to get in and out of the building, which has two sets of air locks to get to the main lifts, to the loo, to the canteen - it's like working at the Royal Mint or the Pentagon. If you don't have this pass with you they wont let you in without and escort. Fun.

After a minor silent grumble, I did what I was told. I went and stood in front of the third chair and looked at the security camera dome. After looking the two wrong security domes, I was finally standing in the foyer looking like an idiot for what felt like an age - and then I was summoned.

And what would you know - on my new pass, a very acceptable likeness of me. It's okay. I'm not scowling. I'm not frowning. I'm not looking like I'm about to murder the photographer. It's okay.

Lets hope the passport short and the driver's licence go as smoothly.

It's only just dawned on me in the last few months that I don't have this photographic history of myself. I'm not sure how I feel about this at all. Part of me is very sad. Part of me is trying to rectify the situation to a point.

My friend Gloria, a very good photographer, has been at me for years to take my portrait once again. I let her do it a few years ago when I was ten kilograms heavier. Though I can see the merits of her photos - I look at them and still see a moose - the photos are in a drawer somewhere, never allowed to see the light of day. Maybe this is another thing to work on - try and get over this fear.

Or maybe I should leave it. I think I needed to write about this after dream group left me rattled last night. My dream. Not a great or positive dream. The conversation was pointed. I'm in constant competition with myself. It's almost cellular.

I'm still processing all this. I just know I'm in for a rocky few weeks.



Days without ice cream - 12

I'm not a photograph
An image without soul
A test shot, paper thin
Without substance or depth.

I don't want to be taken
Or shaken or made
Left on show to collect
The dust that will only collect

For images change with the wind
And the tides and the seasons
Capturing a moment
Feels so futile.


Jackie K said...

I relate! I relate! Me too, have always hated it even when I was young and slim (because I didn't know I was slim I always thought I was fat even when I wasn't). Very fe adult shots of me exist and I also think that's a bit sad. By the way the shot of you with your new glasses on FB is gorgeous - really gorgeous - and yes it's because you're not frowning.

Kath Lockett said...

It's a tough problem because I feel the same way. My weight fluctuates but it's my actual face that I hate - witchy chin, thin lips that look like a knife slashed through butter, bulbous nose, beady snot green eyes and, of course .....

..... the increasingly obvious signs of ageing!

I keep telling myself that few other people like their photos either and maybe one day I'll do a blog and reveal some of the utterly miserable shots I have on my identity cards here (the Swiss love their identity cards) - they all make me look as though I've been arrested and been made to sit on a garden spike!

Jackie K said...

I just had to get my drivers license renewed, and had the completely unpleasant experience of comparing my 3 consecutive license cards next to each other. My first was gorgeous - a fluke but I was also young and slim - my second so-so, and my new one is a complete abomination! Deterioration of aging right before my eyes. :(

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Sadly there are lots of photos of me knocking about - and like you I think I am the least photogenic person on the planet.

I look gormless and stupid or a baboon that is having a bad day (and that is my own son's description).

Still, I never learn.