I marvel at young women who unabashedly take multiple selfies of themselves at any given moment. Without a special occasion or reason, perhaps just a good hair day or great outfit, they pause, click-click-click and save or share. In our youth we are eager to embrace a “look at me” attitude and pose for photos. In my youth, selfies weren’t a thing, and we “got our photo taken” by family, friends, or by going to JC Penny or Sears for a formal sitting. OR, we’d go through a fairly complicated and painstaking process of setting up a tripod or balancing a camera on a crooked rock, setting the timer, and running in front to attempt to look casual. Then we’d have to wait a week or more to see the results. But we still were happy to do it.
The epitome of personal posing was the Glamour Shot craze in the 80’s. For a nominal fee, you could get glammed up and photographed to feel like some kind of cheesy extra for Knots Landingor Charlie’s Angels. There were even Glamour Studios set up in Malls (you remember those, large buildings with multiple retail shops that were the cool place to hang out – but more on that in some future post).
My sister and I jumped once into the Glamour Shoot world when a dear friend of the family was shooting them to help pay his bills. Full disclosure, I never once ever really looked like this in real life. And oh, my, that hair.
As we get older, something happens to that exuberance and the “look at me” attitude seems to turn into a “please don’t” and “I’m going to hide behind a young person” reaction. We get far more critical of ourselves, and because we don’t like our weight, or our wrinkles, or our whatever, we become more comfortable behind the camera. We will take selfies in groups, or to commemorate special locations or activities. Or if we are in really great lighting and can take 10 – 15 shots then agonizingly analyze each one, deleting and retaking until we land on one that is ok to post or show others. Thanks to the digital world we live in, that immediate retake and edit and delete process is readily available – but let’s face it, even with portrait mode, smartphone photos can be pretty awful.
A few weeks ago, one of my BFFs gifted me a professional photo shoot for me and my close group of friends…we call ourselves the Board of Directors. This was no Glamour of the 80’s shoot, this was a celebration of friendships spanning 20 – 40 years, taken by a very talented photographer near Cape Cod. As the date of the photo shoot approached, we all eventually gave up our goals to lose 20 pounds, get tummy tucks, face lifts and tans, and decided we would shed our fears of being in front of the lens and started to look forward excitedly to having time together doing something special. We turned it into a full-fledged chick’s weekend, because we all need to do that more often as well. The photographer put us at ease, made us feel beautiful (she actually called us adorable) and we relaxed and had a blast. There was a lot of laughter and gentle direction from the pro. Some of us learned (ahem) that we are tragically unable to achieve a sultry look, and we all practiced “smizing” (something else I can’t figure out how to do.) After a few in-studio shots, we moved to the beach for some more fun. The experience itself was worth the investment.
The other night we all had a conference call to review the proofs together. We were amazed by the resulting shots. This was not a shoot involving professionally coiffed hair and make-up, and included no airbrushing, fancy gowns or tiaras. (Although there may have been a couple of pink princess hats). It was just us, as we are – and we looked amazing. Sure, we had a few comments in the group like “I look 8 months pregnant in that one”, “Can she get rid of my double chin?”, and “I need to get my teeth whitened”, but for the most part, the photos are beautiful. She had captured our true essences, our happiness together, and great light. We are thrilled, can’t wait to order our prints and are so very glad that we stepped out of our comfort levels and had spent the day feeling like models.
Besides being forever indebted to my amazing Board of Directors and this very talented photographer, this experience has taught me a lesson about not being camera shy. Sure, not many of us can afford a professional photo shoot. But the next time someone wants to take a photo of me, I won’t make an ugly face or try to hide. I’ll simply smile.
My mother passed away before the time of taking and storing hundreds of digital images on iCloud. I don’t think she was necessarily resistant to having her photo taken, she was just so busy taking pictures of the rest of us that it never really dawned on any of us to turn the camera on her more often – and I wish we had. The few photos I have of her, I cherish. Memories and moments and images need to live not just in our brains – they need to live where we all can see them as often as we want.
As for showing our age, well, shouldn’t our age be a badge of honor we polish and shine and show? At this point in our lives, we have far more character, wisdom and joy than we ever had when we were in our teens and twenties. Trust me, the photos we take now tell our stories – and they are stories that should be shared.