Humor, Life

Imperfect

Last week, I was thinking about how many photos I’ve taken in the last fifty years in which I looked like a troll. Back in 2013, I wrote a post about how I don’t take a decent picture. I’d link to it, but the post contained images that didn’t migrate with my blog.

Perhaps it was the universe agreeing.

On my 35th birthday. I was sober.

I turned fifty yesterday, and along with another year, I gained wisdom. That looking bad in photos isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. It could simply be my thing, my jam, my mode of operation.

Kari was a somewhat talented writer, a great friend, funny as hell, but dammit if she took a terrible picture.

Yelling at my ex-husband while crossing the Mississippi River. I’m not sure how that marriage fell apart.

I resolved to confront my fear of taking bad photos by taking the polar opposite approach. By finding the worst possible pictures and staring them down. Maybe by sharing these pictures, by searching for my “bad” pictures, I’ll see they weren’t so bad after all.



To be fair, the majority of my “bad” pictures were taken before the invention of the selfie or even the smartphone. We can now edit our photos to make sure we look just right, carefully controlling how the rest of the world sees us.

The smartphone changed the way people took pictures. 

The bad pictures had vanished. 

Previously, I would take a picture, take it to the drug store or the grocery store, and then wait a week for the pictures to be returned. When I would open the envelope in my car in the parking lot, I would go through them one by one saying, “sucks, sucks, sucks, WHY THE HELL CAN’T I BE READY FOR THE CAMERA? WHO IS THIS PERSON? WHY DID I TAKE A PICTURE OF THE TOILET SEAT??”

But the stories behind those poorly planned and uncontrolled photos, on the other hand, were usually fantastic.

For example, when I was planning a surprise party for my mother and I ended up in the emergency room after cutting my finger while preparing for it. I didn’t want to cancel, so I went on with the party despite being on painkillers and having a hideously bandaged hand.

By the way, my parents were the same age as I am today, in this picture

Someone photographed me wearing a homemade sling created by one of my friends out of one of my kitchen tea towels. I was a hot fucking mess, and I looked high as a kite from the pain relievers, but the party was a blast, even if I don’t remember much of it. Because pain killers.


Or the picture where I’m passed out on a lawn chair with a dog on my lap at a family BBQ (during the day) after taking medication for a sinus infection and then drinking two glasses of wine. Nobody said I made good decisions.


Or how some of the best photos of my husband and me from our wedding were from disposable cameras that were on the tables.


Mike snapped a photo of Anna and me in my hospital room two days after Ella was born after we had a cry. Anna had been an only child for almost eight years, and it was only then that it became clear that both of our lives were going to change. I never shared that photo because of how I looked in it. My postpartum belly, my hair in a tangle, and the angle wasn’t flattering. But now that I look at it with gentle eyes, I am eternally grateful that he took it. Such a personal glimpse into our lives at that time. One that, owing to this photograph, I will never forget.


When we arrived home, I was feeding Ella on the couch, and my mother wanted to capture the moment. She wanted me to remember what parenting felt like in that moment, after a long, trying, exhausting day. Baby Ella was sound asleep on my chest, her face peaceful and calm. She didn’t feel at ease until she was in my arms. The ups and downs of motherhood, exasperation, followed by a deep love. 

I am forever thankful my mother thought to take this photograph.


Walking around Six Flags with Ellie and the hat she got while playing carnival games, which covered her entire head, face, and neck. I was just recovering from pneumonia after being knocked down for six weeks. That summer, I honestly feared I was going to die, and going to Six Flags felt like a marathon for me.

But there is so much good in this picture that you can’t see. She rode her first rollercoaster that day; I guided her all around the park with the enormous hat on and she got so many laughs and comments. I ate an entire bag of cotton candy because it was the first food I could actually taste in over a month.



I used to cringe at photographs of myself; my crooked smile, how my eyes squint when I smile widely, and how I’m never ready for a picture even when I try to be. But now that I’m older, I value these old photographs. 

“When do I get to the bad ones?” Mike asked as he browsed through all my “bad” pictures. Like how we hate the sound of our own voices, do people see us differently than we see ourselves?

Perhaps we are our own harshest critics. Maybe the imperfect part of these pictures is that I’ve kept them hidden for years, hoping no one would see them. Trying to capture the perfect image of a flawed existence we all live. 

Because, let’s be honest, just being in the picture, to begin with, is pretty incredible.

26 thoughts on “Imperfect”

  1. This is great. I love these pics and I too was like- wait, when do we see the bad ones. I love the ones with funny faces that catch a ‘moment’ and help preserve a memory.

    I put a photo album together of Coach and I as babies/ kids up until our wedding. I left it on a table for guests to look at . . . maybe you saw it. 😉 Anyway Coach was cringing at some of the photos I was going to share of myself. I told him “Hey, it shows progress!”

    Here’s to your progress and many happy moments captured in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was once told by a photographer that we don’t like photos of ourselves because that is literally not how we see ourselves. We can only see ourselves in mirrors and reflections so we quite literally see ourselves backwards from how everyone else views us. Therefor a photo always looks “off” to us and we find nit picking reasons why. He actually proved it to me by developing a photo in reverse so it was a mirror image and how I see myself… it was pretty neat! (Though i still can’t say I loved that photo because yeah, I am my worse critic!). But you are so right that even the most awful photos often have a great story behind them… and yeah most of my worst photos were before we could take digital pictures and see in an instant if we needed to retake it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! I’ve never heard this! That is cool!
      I have heard something very similar about voices though and how we hear our own voice is totally different than what we sound like. Isn’t that insane??

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  3. What a fantastic post! I agree that we are our own worst critics. I find something to nitpick about in every photo I see of myself. (“Ugh, I look so fat!” “My hair looks awful!”, etc etc) What your friend above ^ said about the photos and how it’s because we don’t see ourselves that way…yes, I’ve heard that, too. So interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I kept waiting to get to the bad ones too! I’m so glad you shared these pictures and stories with us! Happy (belated) birthday. I hope the next 50 are filled with as many wonderful stories as your first 50.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That last line: YES YES YES! How fortunate we are to be in the picture; whether it was flattering or not. I love this post so much.

    And what a beautiful soul your Mom is for taking that pic of you and your baby: “She said she wanted me to remember what motherhood felt like at that moment because it wasn’t until Ella was in my arms that she was soothed.”

    I have a lot of bad photos too, but I’m at the point in life where it doesn’t bother me anymore. It was a time and a place, and those are no longer.

    Can I pick a favorite bad pic of you? The one on your wedding day where you look like you’re going to vomit. That one gave me a little chuckle; who didn’t want to good ‘almost vomiting’ pic from their wedding day?
    XO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s mine too!! We have two albums full of pictures from the disposable cameras and we made hilarious (to us, at least) captions for every single one of them. It is one of my favorite memories of our wedding….sitting in our family room and gut-laughing hysterically at the inappropriate captions we were writing. 🙂

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  6. Your wedding pics are great, but I commiserate with your plight. I am not photogenic and have few pics of me because of it. Also in the ones I do have my eyes are usually shut. I didn’t like those flash bulbs as a child so I scrunched my eyes shut. Still do it to this day.

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  7. Oh, Kari. I’ve been sort of MIA on the interwebs lately because work is such a shitshow lately, so I’m late to comment, but: I LOVE this post. So much. I can’t tell you how many photos I have that I didn’t like when they were taken because I thought I looked bad, and now I look back at them and wonder why I couldn’t see how good I actually looked. Which might be partly because of the things you say here (I now see the living in them more than my physical being), but also because I actually looked pretty damn good, in a physical being sense. (As do you in so many of these.)

    I suppose the negative take-away from that could be: We are in a state of constant deterioration so we better appreciate what we’ve got while we’ve got it. BUT. I’m gonna go for a different take: Somehow, in the present, it’s hard to see what’s beautiful. If I look back at photos from 10 years ago and think I looked pretty good, I bet the same thing is going to happen with today’s photos ten years from now. So why not let myself see that now? Why put myself down over my turkey neck and all the other things that don’t look like they once did?

    I can’t always, but I’m trying.

    Happy birthday. I’m so glad you’re here, writing. As my grandma used to say about getting old: It beats the alternative!

    Sending you love–

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would give anything to have more pictures of relatives who have passed on and that sticks with me all of the time. Someday our great-grandchildren are going to want these photos. These “ugly” ass photos. Let’s give it to them. 🙂

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  8. One of my regrets is avoiding having my picture taken for such a large part of my kids’ lives. Nowadays, I may not share the bad picture, but at least I have it for our personal album (if it’s ever printed).

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  9. You are so freakin cute. And yes, Mike is right, these pictures aren’t bad. But I get looking at yourself and seeing a bad picture. We are soul sisters in that regard. A pic just surfaced recently of me with a shaved head. I’m with my boyfriend at the time and we both look miserable. Heck, we probably were miserable, but I was so happy to see that picture.

    My mom has a collage wall of pics of us when we were kids and ever other time when you walk by you just stop and relive a moment here and a moment there. There is something so wonderful about seeing moment in time and reliving the rest of the moments around it. We’d never have that opportunity without the pictures. The good the bad and the ugly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!!
      When Mike and I first started dating, he had a wall in his kitchen of unflattering pictures of him and all of his friends. It was called The Wall of Shame and it was my favorite place in his house. We created one in our kitchen when we moved in together and then over the years stopped. But I might reinvent it because it’s a lot of fun to look at those pictures d laugh. Especially now. ❤️

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