I have what borders on a mild phobia when it comes to having my photo taken. Fine if I’m wearing sunglasses and a hat – suitably disguised – but if I’m remotely recognisable, no way. Now, depending on which way you look at it, this could be indicative of a general unhappiness with how I look. It could allude to a deep-seated belief that being photographed robs my soul of some light (and might explain also why I rarely photograph people). Or it could simply be that I’m contrary and if this is the most extreme example of my contrariness, then live with it, people – you’re getting off lightly.
I find myself avoiding large events where photographers are present. If I am there and see an official photographer, I make sure to tell them that I’d rather my photo wasn’t taken. I joke that I’m in the witness protection programme and can’t risk being identified. Many photos taken of me at parties and events show my hand, outstretched in front of my face – like a celebrity fending off the paparazzi. Do I suffer from delusions of grandeur?
Many, many years ago, my cousin was visiting from the UK with some mates. At dinner at home, one of his friends asked who the girl in the photo on the piano was. When my mother told them it was me, they all looked at me in disbelief. The photo did not match reality. Later, when I was in Anchorage and my passport expired, I needed a new photo. The photographer stood up on a chair and looked down on me, telling me to stick out my chin so that only one of them would show. I did and that photo, too, didn’t match reality.
That I am extremely critical of my appearance, there is little doubt. That I have an image of how I should look I can’t deny. But am I prepared to do something to manifest that image? No way. And I can’t for the life of me understand it. I want to get there. I know what I need to do to get there. But, no. Where is Freud when I need him?
When it comes to photos of me, be they self-portraits or otherwise, I prefer black and white to colour. I can’t explain it – but I could have fun trying.
This week, I am grateful that I am still fascinated by how I think and by what I do and by why I do it; that I have not lost my penchant for flights of fancy; and that some of the most interesting conversations I have are those I have with myself.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52