When I was compiling photos of myself for Fashion Tips from Tiny Taylor, I saw hundreds of pictures of me smiling wide, a total ham for the camera. Sometimes, I was in my Sunday best, but most times, I was a mess. My hair was all over, I had something on my face, and I was probably wearing clothes that didn’t match. I didn’t care. I was happy and I thought I was awesome and I loved getting my picture taken.
Today, I’m not that way at all. My sister always makes fun of me for the rigorous battery of rhetorical questions directed at my potential Facebook profile pictures. “Does this make me look weird? Is my makeup okay? I’m making a weird face here, right? Oh my gosh, this so gives me a muffin top. Does the lighting make me look washed out?” Sound familiar to anyone else?
It seems like we get to an age where photos stop being about capturing candid moments of life and start becoming all about capturing our best selves. We become self-conscious, and especially for women, photos become some sort of horrible freeze-frame mirror where we can spend hours picking out our flaws.
When I think back to some of my favorite and most photo-worthy adventures in life, I realize they are also the times I was probably far from “photogenic.” My best friend and I went to Costa Rica in high school, and the humidity about killed us. We were sticky, gross, and had the craziest hair. We took photos anyway, and when I got back, I remember looking over the photos and being upset about it. Ugh. Why couldn’t I have looked cuter? I thought. I WAS IN COSTA RICA. I got to zipline and hike through crazy rainforests and do a million other things. And I’d rather not have the photos to remember it than remember it with a messy me in the middle of it all? Really?
Let’s be honest, life happens. We might be making a weird face in our 21st birthday photo. We might not be having a good hair day during the New Years Party photos. But should that stop us from taking photos of the moments that make our life vibrant and memorable and sharing them? No. It should not.
Borrowing a line from Teresa Porter’s awesome article “So You’re Feeling Too Fat to be Photographed…“, NO ONE IS LOOKING AT HOW FAT YOU LOOK. Or how bad your skin is. Or if your hair is out of place. Your best friends are looking at that photo of New Years and remembering how much fun you were when you had too much champagne and started singing to the waiter. Your mom is looking at your family photos and questioning why she let your dad wear a Hawaiian shirt. You should be looking at your photos and remembering the moments they capture, not how you looked.
Hand-choosing only the photos that you look the best in or refusing to take photos at all isn’t improving your self-image. It’s simply allowing yourself to be absent from history. When your future spouse, your future kids, your friends look back on the time they’ve known you, you’ll be strangely absent from all of those photos of smiling faces and priceless memories.
Life is happening… it is happening right now and the only moment we are guaranteed is the one we are living. I shudder at the thought of leaving behind no pictures of my life with ME in it. – Teresa Porter
This is one of my now favorite photos of my senior prom:
My boyfriend’s least favorite food in the whole world is lasagna. So to be silly and play a prank, I told him I’d personally made him dinner…frozen lasagna. And this is his reaction, and me cracking myself up.
It was a funny moment, but I’d say I look far from what I’d consider my best. If I’d chosen to delete this photo because my face was a little shiny or I had a weird expression, I’d have missed recording this candid moment.
And so the point stands: life is too short for you to be absent from all records of it! Whether you’re 5 or 50 pounds heavier than you’d like to be, or your face is a mess, there’s no time like the present, and no better way to be part of it than to spend your time living instead of primping.