Say “Cheese”!

May 7, 2007 at 4:42 am (Uncategorized)

My friend Judith took a photo of me when I was holding her son Ethan during their recent trip to Sydney. It’s a pretty good photo. As in flattering. And that’s just not something I get to say every day. I’m not generally a photogenic person. I hate – really hate – every single photo of my graduation, I want to tear them all up, and I can name the precise photos of myself that I don’t honestly despise. That’s because there’s so few of them, not because I have an inflated idea of my own attractiveness. I’m actually pretty clear on where it begins and ends, and boy do I know a bad photo of myself when I see one.

I forwarded the photo Judith took to some of my girlfriends overseas, and I confessed that it was my vanity shot when I did. I sent it because it’s one of the better photos of me I’ve ever seen. If it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have sent it. I hardly ever get to see these women, and so it was nice to be able to send them a photo where I look probably as good as I’m ever going to. But I admitted that. I didn’t try and pass myself off as actually looking half as good in real life. I told them straight up that it’s going to be my photo for absolutely everything from now on. If I could plaster it all over all those millions of bad photos without anyone noticing, by god believe me I would. I’d do it in a flash.

One of those friends has just sent me a photo back. Her own vanity shot? Well, it’s hard to tell. It’s a great photo of her, she looks fantastic, but then, she always does. I’ve never seen a single bad photo of her. So I don’t know if this is intended to be her own version of a vanity shot, or if she just chucked the first photo on hand into an attachment and pressed SEND. I mean, she could do that, and the results would be the same. All her photos are fabulous. She’s a really photogenic person and always has been. Some people are. The lucky fucking bastards.

But I think there’s something weird about calling someone photogenic, as if they take a good photo but aren’t any great shakes in real life. It’s oddly back-handed, even though I’m sure no one means it to be. I have another super-photogenic friend (they share the same first name. Maybe I will name my first-born after them in the hope of breaking this curse), and people are always telling her she’s really photogenic. We all do. With each new round of photos, she has to endure another avalanche of comments, all along that same unbroken line: “God you’re so photogenic.” I can quite honestly say this is not something anyone is ever going to say to me. The best I can hope for is “That’s a good one of you.” But I think how photogenic she is kind of overlooks how good looking she is in person. The fact is she’s at least partly so photogenic because she’s really pretty. Just like my friend overseas. The camera just has more to work with, there’s a higher percentage chance that it’s going to work out just fine. It’s not that either of them look better in photos than they do in person, it’s just that they look pretty good in person, and they look about the same in photos.

I’m not saying I’m ugly and therefore that’s why there are so many ugly photos of me. This is where people who aren’t photogenic really get robbed. I’m fine, I’m never going to cause a riot, but nor am I the runt of the litter. But gee I take some beating in the dodgy photo department. I really have more than my fair share of conversation stoppers. Sometimes I want to cry they’re so bad. Take my graduation photos. There I was becoming a Doctor of Philosophy, it was one of the proudest days of my life, and all I have to remember it by – aside from my degree, of course – is a set of photos I would sincerely love to burn. I look at those photos and I think “Jesus, is that really what I look like?” I’m going to choose to think not. I’m going to choose to think I look more like the person in my vanity shot. Of course, it’s kind of increasingly hard to do that when friends keep saying “Oh my god, that’s SUCH a GREAT photo of you!!!” – like there’s clearly NO WAY I look anything like that face-to-face – but I don’t care. I reckon I’ve earned it. I read a quote the other day that I liked: “In your twenties you still have the face you were born with. In your thirties, you get the face you deserve.” So that’s my photo, and I’m sticking to it.


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