Like a lot of people, I’m not a huge fan of having my photo taken.
The sight of a camera lens pointing in my direction is enough to send a juggernaut of hyper self-conscious panic right through my heart. The words “say cheeeeeeese” are enough to make me want to sink into the ground and be eaten by worms. And opening the camera on my phone only to find my confused, freckly, selfie-unready face blinking back at me? Well, that’s enough to make me want to throw my phone into the sea pour les poissons*.
I’m both fascinated and completely repulsed by myself in photos. (Me, me, me, I, I, I, self, self, self. Sorry.)
For about ten years I barely let anyone take a photo of me. Photographic evidence of my existence in that time is minimal. As minimal as I could get away with. And the evidence that does exist is pained and reluctant, through gritted teenage teeth. I think everyone goes through a stage like this, long or short. (I’m kind of curious whether people felt like this way back in the day, sitting for a family painting? If someone could pleeeease invent time travel, because I’d like to go back and ask. Pretty please.) My stage just happened to be a very very very long stage.
So imagine my surprise when I found a photo from that time, taken a few weeks after my fourteenth birthday, where I looked… relaxed. At peace with the lens. Zen with the flash. Okay with the camera.
Granted, that’s probably because I thought the photo had already been taken and that the danger had passed.
But I’m taking it as a small victory anyway.
For me, the best things about the photo are the memories that come with it. Memories so so clear and sparkly. Devon. July. Running. Laughing. Brothers, sister, mother. Twinkling lights and a shushing, shiny sea.
I can walk right back into the blue and feel it all the way through my veins.
But there is one thing about the photo that I would change, even if that wish to change it is futile.
I would stick two fingers right-royally up at the voice hiding behind my forehead that told me I was all wrong, the voice that told me (tells me) I was (that I am) hideous, disgusting, fat, ugly, gross.
I wasn’t. I’m not.
And none of that stuff matters anyway.
We are all so so so much more than our bodies and our faces, no matter what those bodies or faces happen to look like.
We are all so so so worthy of having our pictures taken and not giving a flying fuck of how we appear in that split second.
So please. If you’re out there and camera shy like me, stick up those metaphorical fingers and tell that voice to piss the fuck off. Smile and grin and laugh and don’t care. Be at peace with the flash. Stare right down the barrel of the lens. Challenge that camera to a duel.
And in the wise, wise words of Moominpappa (I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself):
‘The world is full of great and wonderful things for those who are ready for them.’
Don’t let that voice make you think you aren’t worthy, whether it’s worthy of a photo or worthy of a life well lived.
Because life is alway saying cheeeeeeese.
*there’s a story behind “pour les poissons” involving a ten euro note, a gust of wind, and a sweet but matter-of-fact elderly French man in Collioure. I promise I’m not just being pretentious à la Fawlty Towers.