As a photographer, I am approached regularly by clients or potential clients who want to have their portraits taken, but are afraid because they believe they are not “photogenic.” I try to assuage these anxieties by reassuring them that everyone is photogenic, that it has more to do with lighting and posing than genetics or fashion, and a lot of times that is enough to give them that little push they needed to feel confident enough to be photographed.
Sometimes, however, there is the client who is so afraid to be photographed that they cannot go through with it, or they will go through with it but will not enjoy the experience and might not like any of their photos. Usually, they will say something like, “it’s a good picture, you just didn’t have a good subject to work with,” or “maybe you could photoshop fifty pounds off of me and then I’ll like them!”
I can sit here behind my computer and plead with people to have their portraits taken, to take selfies, to take pictures at birthday parties and ask the server at the restaurant to take a photo of your group, but if I do that, I need to admit something to you, first.
I hate being photographed.
I don’t wish to speak for anyone else, but I have been coming to terms with the reasons why for quite some time, and I think it boils down to one thing: self-esteem. Wrapped inside this, you will also find poor body image and a woman who never thought of herself as attractive or beautiful because she was never thin and never had perfect teeth or skin.
The first is that my mom died a few years ago and I have pictures of her, but not nearly as many as I wish I had. The second is that there are thousands of photos of my family in existence that don’t include me.
These two reasons are related because I believe my mom and I are missing from so many photos for the same reasons: I am probably the person taking the photo and I don’t like to be photographed. I often wonder if my love of photography grew out of my desire to not be included in photos.
I challenged my family to pick up their cameras and phones more often so that I am not the only one taking pictures. I taught my nearly-three-year-old son to use the remote shutter on my camera so we could take pictures together.
Then, a few weeks ago, I took some self-portraits. It was difficult and I had to use a lot of mindfulness and affirmations to get through it. I’m glad I did, because I am pleased with the results.
I am not cured of my self-esteem and body image issues, but I am challenging them. When I am gone, I want there to be moments that have been frozen in time, that my loved ones can view when they miss me. While I am still here, I want there to be a record of me.
There are lots of reasons that people might not want to be photographed, and I am not going to tell anyone that their reasons aren’t valid or that they need to start posting selfies everyday. However, I would encourage anyone reading this who hates to be photographed to perhaps occasionally allow themselves to be photographed; to exist in photos.