Not many of you may know this, but I am a semi-professional photographer.
(In other words, “I get paid to take pictures,” but it is not my primary source of income.)
I have always loved taking photos. Maybe it’s because it was my dad’s favorite hobby (“Dad, stop taking pictures of me eating my lunch. Ew.”), maybe it’s because I’m Japanese (“Oooh, tay-koo peek-cha?”), but when I finally picked up my first SLR at age 23, I felt a quickening. Something inside of me MOVED. In my head, the voice that had screamed into stale, empty silence for years sensed a gasp of fresh air, the dense, black emptiness was sliced open with a fragment of blinding light, and in the startled shock that followed, that voice found freedom.
I won’t say that I’m a great photographer. I have a lot of technical learning to do, and I do not spend as much time behind my camera as I should.
I WILL say that I am proud of the best pictures I take, when I press the button I can make my camera capture the image I picture in my head, and most of the time my work doesn’t suck.
And, if the thing I’m photographing is something I truly love?
Well, then my pictures look like this.
:) Cute, huh? (If I do say so myself…)
And technically accurate. Also “bokeh,” and although there are a few changes I could have made to the background and the white balance, I’m pleased with the photo. I love my kids, so subject was great. Posing was great. Execution was great – no weird smiles or nose picking or arguing. I took the picture just as we arrived, BEFORE we all sat to eat, so no stains, and sweaty faces from running around, and all the bows and ties were still intact. That was a great day (my cousin’s wedding), and this picture reminds me of the time we spent together. Good, good, good. All good.
ask me where the pictures are of ME at that wedding.
I love taking pictures. I DO NOT LIKE HAVING MY PICTURE TAKEN. There’s a second, way more selfish reason for my attraction to photography, and it has EVERYTHING to do with “plausible deniability.”
You can’t blame me for not being in the picture, when I’m the one TAKING the picture.
(and kind of brilliant, I think.)
And so, The Body Image Project.
The most convincing argument for The Body Image Project, the reason I need to do this the most, is because I am TERRIFIED of having my picture taken. I hate it. I always have, at first for feeling dirty and stained at age 8, then even more so after my first bout of acne at age 15, then throughout and after college when Ana and Mia ruled my life.
No pictures for me, thanks. Pack up that camera of yours and JUST KEEP WALKING.
Then I had kids, and I realized that being afraid of my own photo is fine for ME, but THEY need me to be better than that.
Then I met The Mr, and I realized that being disgusted by my body all alone is (sad, but) fine, but HE needs me to be better than that.
Then, and I’m not kidding when I say this part, I figured some shit out and met myself, and I realized that I need me to be better than that.
I started a blog. I started a Facebook page. I put myself out there. I grew in confidence through vulnerability. I removed the haters from my life, I surrounded myself with people who saw me as the person I wanted to be, not the person I was afraid I was. I found real and loving support through Weight Loss Rebels and the other Ambassadors,
then I started taking pictures of myself.
Some of them, naked.
It took practice, being okay with that. It was scary at first. It was kind of gross when I started, looking at all those photos. “EW AND OH NO,” like peeking at a bear attack victim under the coroner’s sheet. “EW AND OH NO, AND I CAN’T STOP LOOKING.”
So I didn’t stop looking.
I KEPT looking. And then I kept taking pictures, and I looked some more.
And you know what?
That photographer part of me started coming through, and I started seeing the subject in the photos (me) as a SUBJECT. I gained objectivity. I learned that “oh yeah, that is not a good angle,” and “wow, that’s a great shot of my legs.”
Have you ever taken a picture of yourself, or seen a picture taken of you, and said “AHAHAHAHAHAHAOMGNOOOOOPE,” then deleted the photo? Or “untag this photo,” then turned on your Facebook tag review option so you can make sure only the good pictures of you show up in your timeline. Or maybe it was a hard copy of a photo of you that belonged to someone else, and you made a special trip to their house after you saw it so you could sneak the photo album off the shelf while they went to the bathroom, then steal the picture and stuff it in your underpants so you could smuggle it out, take it home and burn it?
….yeah, me neither.
We’ve all had those pictures. Even the most photogenic people I know (my sister, for example) takes an occasional bad picture. I am NOT photogenic, so most of my pictures make me look like I’m trying to sniff my own chin.
What I challenge you to accept is that most bad pictures have nothing to do with the person in them, and ALMOST EVERYTHING to do with the way they’re taken.
Lighting. Posing. Texture. Background. White balance, hand and arm placement. Foreground. Choice in lens, f-stop, aperture.
I started this post by talking about my photography experience for a reason. I am no professor on the subject, but I know enough to know that it is very easy to create a bad picture, ESPECIALLY when you’re the one taking it.
And, as this blog title would indicate, the one place most women find the most insecurity in their portrait is their chin.
Or chinS, if you take the picture right.
I have, by comparison, a fairly long neck and a fairly small chin. When I stand up straight, my chin looks like this.
In this picture, I’m turned slightly away from the camera, and I’m turning my head to face the opposite direction of my shoulders. I’m stretching out my neck, skin and muscle and all. ALSO, that line between my ear and the center of my throat? It’s called a focal point, a line through the middle of the picture (or would-be middle, if I’d cropped the photo) that draws your attention. It catches the light just right, creates a point of highlight, and creates a long, clean, thin line for your eye to follow.
No matter what size my neck and or chin, in this picture it looks smaller.
SMALLER THAN IN THIS PHOTO.
Not only does this photo make my chinS look big, my chest is broad and flat, my neck is short, and the only lines to be seen are the thick, horizontal ones across my throat.
Hahahaha… seriously laughing out loud. :) What a derp. (That part is true, always. I like it.)
What I want you to understand, and what I hope these pictures illustrate, is that although photos don’t lie, they also don’t always tell the truth. Photographs can tell whatever story you choose, and sometimes they tell a story that isn’t even real.
In real life, throughout my day, I do not have (counting in the photo now, one, two, three, four) FOUR CHINS. That picture says I have four chins.
In real life I have one chin, while I’m standing up. When I lay down flat on my back to eat cookies and watch Netflix, when my pillow is just right I have two chins. When I do THAT ^^ up there, I have FOUR.
One, two, or four, only the first one is constantly real. The rest come and go.
JUST LIKE EVERYTHING.
Reality is more than one instant in time. Reality is more than one picture. It is more than one instant of self-hate when you catch yourself in the mirror in the dressing room. It is more than one pair of pants that don’t fit today because you’re bloated, and it is more than the few years before you had kids, before baby weight, breast milk, and responsibilities kept you from working out six times a week.
Reality is not instant, it is TIMELESS. It is longevity. It is a string of moments put together, and, just as one horrible picture cannot determine my true size and shape (and number of chins), one day of tight pants or years of poor health do not condemn me to live the rest of my life that way.
We are more than the instantaneous moments.
We are ALL the moments put together, and there are many of them yet to be decided.
You can be whatever you choose to be, no matter what this moment tells you.
I have mentioned before in this Body Image Project blog series, “please do this for yourself.” I mean it. I’m not just saying that so we can be samesies. I’m not trying to get you to drink the kool-aid.
I’m encouraging you to participate (bossing you, even) because it is good for you, even if you can’t see it yet. It will CHANGE you. You will come out on the other side of it a different person. Stronger. More confident. More aware of what you truly are, and you will live your life for what you’re made of, instead of living to hide what you fear you’re not.
I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my kids, when they’re too afraid to move forward.
Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid, it means you move forward anyways.
You deserve more than what you’ve got, so go out and take it.