On Smiling

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On Saturday I held another portrait session day and afterwards Katie and I discussed how taking portraits is an interesting and often sad look at how women perceive themselves. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I started taking more photos of other people, noticing this knee-jerk reaction to having our photos taken that so many women exhibit once the camera is on them. They immediately point out a physical quality about themselves that they hate and hope the photographer can correct for, a look of shame and disgust washing over their faces while they say it. And 99.9% of the time I can never see what they’re talking about. Never. I get that when you spend a lot of time looking at yourself in the mirror – whether you want to or not – you find flaws and you compare and you notice things. But I’ve also noticed a consistent pattern that this quality was once (or more then once) pointed out to them by another woman in their lives – very often their mothers or grandmothers. Often a classmate at school. Which bums me out because I know that while classmates could be doing it to feed their own insecurities, usually our mom only means well while leaving us with this wounded ego that follows us around our whole lives.

I also notice that so many of us can’t stand photos of ourselves smiling big. Katie and I debated on whether this was just a stylistic trend right now – the moody, artsy photos being more popular (I take part in this often) or if it’s more psychological than that. That photos of yourself grinning ear to ear are sort of a display of bragging or just seen as obnoxious? When I edit photos I’m drawn to the ones where people look genuinely happy and full of joy, but my clients almost never use those photos because they’re give a similar reaction “yuck, I hate photos of my smiling, my face looks weird!” Are we not used to seeing ourselves smiling in the mirror? I myself have very crooked teeth and feel like it’s always been a point of shame for me, so I have to work hard at not being ashamed by my smile.

But we both agreed we’ve been taught a lesson in all of this – to quiet that stupid voice in our head that spits out insults about ourselves to others, to embrace being joyous in photos more often, to be more comfortable in front of the camera. That being said, when someone comments on a photo of me and say I need to smile and look happier, I reject that kind of commentary as it’s just as unhelpful and photos of people not smiling are beautiful as well!

have a beautiful day, friends!