Old self with prop…

self in 1983

self in 1983

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.

14 Responses to “Old self with prop…”

  1. Nita Says:

    As you never posted a picture of yourself I always tried to imagine what you looked like and glad to know that I was not far wrong! You have that intellectual and smart look, and you are certainly pretty! You look like a writer, and your eyes are soulful! I am so glad you posted a pic G, all at once the connection seems stronger.

  2. Nita Says:

    p.s. I will try and find a picture of myself to do this tag. I think it’s a great tag!

  3. ybonesy Says:

    I’m 100% with you as far as hating to be photographed. I just have always felt so unphotogenic, unlike one of my sisters who photograhs beautifully. And then I have this one professional portrait done with my entire family, when my oldest daughter was about eight, so must have been about five years ago, and it’s a gorgeous shot. People look at it now (I used it as my screensaver for a long while, so proud I was of it) and they always commented on how great I looked. Then when I was in Vietnam a few weeks ago, a most precocious child said, “How come you don’t look like that now?” when she saw the photo on my computer. That was my cue to replace it with a different shot.

    I’m so glad you did this. I love the shot of you. You have a sexy mouth, you know. Not sure I’ll do one of me, but if I do I know which one was the aberration and not the one to choose. 8)

  4. Christine Says:

    I agree with Nita, you are pretty, you have an intelligent face, thick lashes, thick hair. But how we look doesn’t match the magnificence we feel inside, does it?

    I’ve been told by some I’m pretty, and in my youth I think I was. Now I see the signs of aging, so for the most part I neglect my appearance, focusing instead on making sure I keep up with my showers!

    I put up a photo recently on my blog of me when I was twenty-one. I looked much better then than I do now!

  5. Nita Says:

    Christine, beauty does not decrease with age, not even physical beauty. In fact I think it increase. I had an aunt who looked stunning at 70! She had flawless skin, a serene expression and talking eyes. She was agile and alive. At the age of 20 she looked pretty ofcourse, but it was a cardboard type of prettiness that millions have. It has no meaning, it is purely physical. The kind of beauty that someone gets with age is true beauty, because it shows the world who are…bitter, mean, unhappy, worried, sad, or just happy and beautiful inside. Ofcourse being content with one’s looks also impacts how one looks. Many people just look better and better with age!

  6. suburbanlife Says:

    I agree with Nita that beauty does not decrease with age, with the proviso that a person with an internal beautiful personality will show that beauty in his or her external appearance. There is a beauty of character which is difficult to describe, yet recognizable when one comes across it – a wholeness, serenity, acceptance and dignity. I wish to age that way. G

  7. johemmant Says:

    I LOVE that photo. I think it is just the kind of shot someone would have taken of me then, mouth open opining, cigarette in hand *grin*. I too hate to be photographed, I am very unphotogenic. I also console myself with the fact that I like people’s looks in direct proportion to how I feel about them……ie friends and people I love are always gorgeous.

  8. Enrique Says:

    Hi G, you look so intellectual, even debonair. Was the picture taken in the Yukon?
    Take care,

  9. owlfarmer Says:

    I see that you, too, were a “babe” in your youth. I had to chuckle soundly when I read your post, because it sounds like me in my former life (although I had the long, straight hair and granny glasses of an already aging hippie twenty years ago–I was already forty, but no longer an idiot, I think). Not many photos of me survive from that era, which is odd for a member of a photo-happy family. Maybe because I was taking them.

    But the evening you describe sounds familiar and rather poignant, upon reflection.

  10. Shefaly Says:

    That’s a lovely photo. You look very Parisian circa 1930s i.e. very intellectual. đŸ™‚

  11. suburbanlife Says:

    It must be the glasses that make for the ‘intellectual’ look – without them i look like a stunned deer in the headlights about to be run over by a semi truck. lately, friends have started to make catty comments on how much i act like mr. magoo, and lead me about by the hand, which is ever so irritating. of course the glasses now are really thick and very nerdy looking in a little old lady sort of way, but what the heck!
    My grand-daughter takes great delight in ruffling my grey hair and trying to peer into my ‘bad’ eye – she is very fascinated by my recently acquired ‘wicked-witch’ appearance. Oy! G

  12. Deborah Barlow Says:

    Thank you for sharing this photo. It has a haunting quality, and I looked at the image for a long time. Your challenge requires some scanning, but I may take you up on it…those old photos have their own kind of power, don’t they?

  13. diamondsandrust Says:

    I imagined you like that believe it or not,and I think you are very brave.

  14. guybrush57 Says:

    I think your picture’s lovely – and I’m thrilled to know what you look like! I think you look intelligent, articulate and contemplative. Wish I had the nerve to post a pic – but sadly, no camera has survived the attempt.

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