Capturing ourselves on camera

It felt really indulgent. A bit silly. Even embarrassing. Or worse, vain. 

But I didn't let that stop me. I asked a good friend to take over the camera to take some photos of me. 

I hate most photos of myself. Luckily there aren't too many of them, given that I'm usually behind the camera. But, then again, maybe that's not lucky. Maybe I should do a better job of documenting me, too. 

It's easy to avoid the camera. I'm having a bad hair day, or my makeup has faded, or I'm feeling fat, or wearing yucky clothes. It's always something.

But I've never forgotten the words of an older woman whose writing I read somewhere, who regretted that there weren't more photos of herself when she was younger. She'd always felt too fat, too underdressed, too messy, not polished enough, etc. to get in front of the camera. But as the years pass, she said, you realize you looked pretty good back then. I'm still holding out hope that I get better with age, but let's be real: for this kind of thing, there's no time like the present.

I'm also struck by the words of this blogger, when she said "Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves -- women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don't like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay?" 

So I passed my friend the camera and we headed for a secluded parklike spot where we could click away to our hearts content without too many onlookers. We took turns taking pictures of each other, experimenting with different backgrounds, positions and expressions. I pretended I was a celebrity and hammed it up. We got some terrible shots, and we had a lot of outtakes. But we got some good ones too, and some funny ones, and we had a lot of fun. Here are some samples. 

We laughed a lot.

It was freezing cold out, and my eyes kept tearing up from the cold air, or maybe allergies. I kept having to wipe the tears away.

We stood on benches, crouched on the ground, looked this way and that, in search of interesting angles and pretty lighting.

I was amazed at how much of a difference small changes of angle or lighting could make.

My 8 year old daughter looked at the pictures and proclaimed, "Mommy, these are pretty! They don't look like you!" Ah, so sweet.

I am grateful to my friend for her patience and her talent with the camera, and for giving me great directions (look up, right, down, smile, bigger!) and for not making me feel vain, indulgent, or silly. And I am happy to have a photo of myself that I don't cringe when I look at. That's just so nice.

I'm also very aware that these photos were carefully planned, and that, to my daughter's point, they don't look like the "real" me. The me who didn't get around to blow drying, putting on makeup, or picking out the perfect scarf to pick up the blue in my eyes. I need to be bolder about getting in front of the camera in those real moments too. 

I have good hair days, and bad ones, and the truth is, they're both me. I resolve to capture the "real" more often in 2013. But meanwhile, I'm also happy to have a picture like the ones above, because that's the real me too, even though I don't see her all that often.

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