I have always hated to have my picture taken – as a child, as a teen, as a young woman and now as an older woman. In family photos I was always the one to scowl at the camera because it intruded and because it always felt like I had to look nice, or pleasing, or amenable. There is a primitive fear lurking in me that makes me dislike the photographic image of people, and there are scant photos of loved ones in my possesion, and very few of me. Any photo that exists and which I have accepted as being somewhat truthful, or at least, as close to how I wish to represent myself has been taken unposed and on the fly.
I am not a beauty or pretty, nor sweet or malleable. The usual caution during childhood family photo sessions was: “Look nice, smile pretty.” The reality was a sense of confusion and questioning of the need to present a fake niceness. And how does one look pretty in the first place, anyway. Reminders to “Close your mouth, stop talking and asking questions,…” made me miserable and reluctant to co-operate. There is a priceless picture of me at age eight with a violin for a prop which makes me get giggly especially since I know what a series of lies are represented by the image. It tells of a pleasant and happy child, enamored of her violin, her lips red tinted and prissy, eyes dreamy, right hand fingering the strings delicately and the left hand arced and gracefully propelling the bow. The real truth was I hated to have to play for the photographer, the starched colllar of my white blouse pinched my neck and the wool plaid skirt itched my bare legs. I was at once bored and wishing to be anywhere but there, being victimized in an interminable photo session. Renaissance Man has that photo; he dug it out of the jumbled box of family snapshots.
The above photograph was taken by Rumpole in our up North log house a couple of decades ago, on a winter evening after we had all reconvened at home after work and school. I was tired, recouping with a cigarette and listening to him or Renaissance man talk about their day. Still in my studio smock, my hair messy and my mouth open as if about to comment – yep, that was me. Not a pretty picture, but quite close to how I felt – wiped out and hiding behind the prop, the cigarette. A far more honest snapshot, not high art, nor posed than any photograhy studio portrait might be.
I invite any regular readers of this blog to post an old snapshot of themselves which they feel arrives close to a truthful portrait of them at a particular moment in the past.