The Whole Picture

A couple of weeks ago over lunch with a friend I found myself gently pulling his leg about some rather dashing black and white head shots that he’d had taken for work and shared on Facebook. After the initial ribbing passed we started talking about how truly hideous it is having this type of professional work portrait taken. Butt-clenchingly awful!

‘Being photographed naked is far easier than having a head and shoulders shot,’ I said.

And I wasn’t joking. Being photographed naked is liberating and fun. Whether you’re stripping off in your local park at 6am with some of your closest friends, tramping through the woods giggling and gossiping with a new one, or indulging in more drawn-out intimate performances at home, there’s a huge sense of freedom in whipping your clothes off and trusting yourself to someone’s camera.

Sometimes I come to these shoots with ideas, other times I am happy to relinquish creative control, especially with people like Molly and The Photographer. Being photographed by such talented individuals is a privilege and for me part of the experience was trusting them and revelling in the anticipation of seeing what they had done. Opening the email when these sets of photos arrived was as exciting as unwrapping a present.

The challenge for me though can come in selecting and posting the images. Not always, of course. When I saw what my friend who I asked to rope and photograph my legs had done I had all the ‘wow!’ and couldn’t hit publish fast enough! But like many of us I have edited, cropped and discarded my own self-portraits when in them I have seen imperfections I don’t want to share. What do you do when it is a photograph someone else has taken? Especially when the whole point of your little collaborative project is to get people thinking differently about bodies and beauty. When Molly sent me her edits she asked me if there were any I wasn’t comfortable with before she published them. ‘Yes,’ said my internal voice. ‘No, I love all of them,’ was my response.

EXP40-3When Molly posted her selection I couldn’t keep the wry smile from my lips. The photo I would have trashed was the one she selected as a favourite. While my eye had gone straight to my left breast and the inverted nipple that makes me cringe, Molly had pointed out the sunlight on my face and described me looking relaxed and beautiful. After reading her words my eyes zoomed out and I chose to focus on the smile playing on my lips and remember how glorious it was lying on the branch in the summer warmth, looking up at the dappled light.

IMG_3186I shared this anecdote with The Photographer. ‘If you don’t let go of the image you will self-criticise,’ he replied. I revisited some of his photographs. This one, cast aside because the lens had caught me scrunching at the same poor berated nipple, trying to get it to stand to attention. Again, I zoomed out. I chose instead to see elegance in the lines and shadows, shoulders that are more defined than I had thought, hair I love and most of all it really really makes me want to have my neck kissed! ‘I can’t really believe that’s me,’ I said. ‘Well it is you and beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ he replied.

IMG_4868How true. I was reminded of this photograph I took of Exhibit A in the summer. I love this photo. I love how the lines of the balcony and roof draw your eye to what is a great arse, enviable legs and handsome back, and I love how he looks both strong and vulnerable against the harsh rooftops and with the city in the background. It’s a photograph that makes me want to reach out and touch him. He didn’t want to use it on his blog and I got a bit whingy, saying much of what I have written above. “But what others see or appreciate in our body is not the same as what we see in ourselves,” was his calm response to my slightly huffy messages.

At the time I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t see it as a photo to celebrate, yet having now reflected on my own response to images people have taken of me versus what they have seen in them I can see he is completely right. We simply don’t see in ourselves what others see in us.

Look At Me NowI chatted to my friend who I photographed for Look at Me Now and My Favourite Shirt. “I’m still a little surprised at myself that I did it as it was initially a terrifying idea, but actually it’s been very liberating. There wasn’t really anything that I didn’t like. Actually that’s a lie, I wish I’d worn better knickers and had taken my bra off earlier so I didn’t have a mark on my cleavage.” Seriously, is anyone looking at the knickers or the bra marks when they look at these images?! I know I see only a confident gorgeous woman whose image is married with powerful words that tell a story.

Is there a conclusion to this post? I don’t really know. It is really just a collection of observations and snapshots of thoughts and conversations. But if I were to draw anything from the time I have spent reflecting on the experience of being photographed and of photographing others I would say that if we were less inclined to zoom in on the detail of what we don’t like when we look at photographs of ourselves then we would be far more likely to value the whole picture in the way we do when we admire and celebrate others.

 

 

43 thoughts on “The Whole Picture

  1. I love the points you raise here. I know when I see photos of myself I zoom in on the flaws and am blind to what the OH sees often. I would love to have the opportunity to be photographed by people as talented as yourself and Molly… It could be a life changing experience to feel so accepted as I am.
    Great post! Love it.
    Kat

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  2. It is funny that the one image I took of you that you were uncomfortable with, is the one that stood out to me as my favourite and I think just that, illustrates your point perfectly. It is so easy to get lost in fine details, the little niggly things we don’t like about ourselves and miss the bigger picture, so to speak. An example I have on my blog in the one of my on the trampoline pulling a face, Michael loves that image, he says I look adorable and cute and it is so me and yet it makes me cringe. it took me a fair while to get over that feeling and pluck up the courage to post it but I am glad I did as peoples comments made me realise that the image is candid, real and truthful and that essentially those are all things I love about a good image. you can find it here if you do not already know it http://mollysdailykiss.com/2015/04/25/pulling-faces/

    Mollyxxx

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  3. Other than a handful of the earliest photos that I posted, I do all my own photography, so I don’t have the “I hate it but the photographer loves it” experience. Even so, when people comment, I can tell that they’re seeing me differently than I see myself – they’re less critical and more accepting.

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  4. I’ve found that I’m always my worst critic in whatever I do, I only ever see the flaws. Even though I know this I still can’t stop doing it.
    My shape and size have changed very little since I was a teen (aside from pregnancy) I am actually slightly smaller now, but I’ve never been one for weighing myself, I always go by how my clothes fit.
    When it comes to photographs I hate seeing my face in them, my body I’m learning to accept it’s flaws – they are what make my body mine (my left nipples an innie too!) and if I’m taking the photo I’ll take so many before I get one I’m happy with. A lot of that is because I’m limited to phone selfies – I’ve promised myself a decent camera and tripod in the New Year, but it’s also not helped by the oh so perfect images we see every day in the media. I think that’s why I love the memes like Sinful Sunday and Boobday so much – real photos of real people and everyone is so supportive of each other. I also love this site so much for being so 40+ positive. I’m 48 and I’m probably as happy and confident about my body as I’ve ever been. Certainly more so than when I was 18.

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    • Thank you for the great comment. So many people I speak to are gaining in confidence as they get older, not diminishing. Re seeing the flaws, I wonder if we have to accept we will see them but them make the effort to look on and see more rather than just turning away. Hope you get your camera! Xx

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  5. You know a lot about me and exactly what I am like being photographed. I like the challenge of handing over control and my through your eyes is exactly that – although life has made the next installment nigh on impossible to arrange. I think that others are not just more forgiving, they are unburdened by our emotional history with our bodies and our image so they see new details, lines, view points and beauty.

    By the way, you’re gorgeous both sides of the camera.

    Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a fantastic post. I adore your photographs and you are amazing at helping us all appreciate our bodies as art, subjects and something to be looked at and enjoyed.
    Your blog makes me feel so happy x x x 💖

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  8. I love this and everyone’s comments. I recently posed for someone for art – pastels and paints. Seeing his interpretation of my body has been amazing. I would Love to be brave enough for someone with skill to photo me. As someone who posts nude pics on twitter – I am ok with those, I can hide my shortness with angles, take in particular light to hide flesh marks or fat and can be all creative – in those I can see past my flaws and see the composition. but my face. Yuck. And that too is the problem with work portraits. It’s your face with no context of yourself. It’s an odd consequence of kinky photography and no face shots to protect anonymity.

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