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.
I turned fifty yesterday, and in addition to gaining another year, I acquired wisdom. That looking bad in photos isn’t the worst thing a person can go through. It could just 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.
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 clear, the majority of the bad pictures were taken before the invention of the selfie or even the smartphone. We can now edit our pictures to make sure we look exactly right, carefully controlling how the rest of the world sees us, and even how we view ourselves.
The smartphone transformed the way people took pictures for the rest of their lives.
The “bad” photos had vanished.
Before this, you would take a picture, send it to the drug store, the grocery store, or Shutterfly, and then wait a week for them to be returned. When you opened the pictures in the parking lot in your car, you would go through them one by one and say, “sucks, sucks, sucks, WHY THE HELL CAN’T I BE READY FOR THE CAMERA? WHO THE HELL IS THIS PERSON? WHY DID I TAKE A PICTURE OF THE TOILET SEAT??”
However, the stories behind those unflattering pictures are good; sometimes quite fantastic.
For example, I once organized a surprise 50th birthday party for my mother and wound up in the ER for stitches after cutting a watermelon and slicing my finger off in the process. I didn’t want to cancel, so I proceeded with the party while on painkillers and with a poorly bandaged hand.
The towel is a homemade sling made for me by one of my friends out of one of my kitchen tea towels. I was a hot fucking mess, but the party was so much fun, even if I don’t remember much of it because of the painkillers.
Or the time I passed out at a family barbecue (in the middle of the day) after taking Benadryl for a sinus infection and then drinking two glasses of wine (I know).
Or how some of the best photos of me from our wedding were from the disposable cameras that were on the tables.
Mike took this photo of Anna and me after we had a good cry two days after Ella was born. She’d been an only child for seven and a half years, and it was just setting in that both of our lives were about to change. I never shared this photo because I thought I looked horrible in it, but now that I look at it, I’m so glad he took it. It was such a personal look into our lives, one that I will never forget, and one that Anna would never remember if it hadn’t been for it.
After a long, exhausting day, my mom took this picture of me. We’d gotten out of the house to go for a drive, just her, myself, and baby Ella. Ella didn’t like riding in the car and cried and screamed for the entire two-hour ride.
When we got home, I was feeding Ella on the couch, and this was the picture my mom took. 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 I soothed her.
I am so glad she took this picture.
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.
Real life pictures have a lot of soul. They truly capture what you were going through at that time.
“When do I get to the bad ones?” Mike asked as he scrolled through all these “bad” pictures.
Like how we despise the sound of our own voices. Do others perceive us in a different light than we see ourselves?
Perhaps we are our own harshest critics. Perhaps the flaw I’m referring to is within ourselves and how we perceive ourselves. Maybe the most 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 picture of a very flawed life we all live.
Because, let’s be honest, just being in the picture, to begin with, is pretty incredible.