I think they’re actually called selfies now, but you get the idea.
Photos of you, taken by you.
Actually, really, let’s talk about all photos of you, regardless of who took them. I know this isn’t a new conversation, and I doubt I have anything incredibly new, or astoundingly Earth shattering to say on the subject, but as a photographer of primarily women in their 20’s and 30’s, and as the mother of a daughter who is hurtling head-first toward her own precious turn at womanhood, I felt like maybe I had something to say anyway.
This summer, I’ll turn 29.
(For those of you counting, let me help you: yes, I was 16 when I had my daughter who’s now almost 13, yes, Bill and I are 17 years apart, and yes I still have acne, I know that’s weird.)
After all these years on Earth, in this body, with this face, you would think I’d be better at having my photo taken. Especially if I could be the one to take it, which thanks to modern technology, I most definitely can.
But I’m still not.
Actually, let’s say that differently: I’m not anymore.
With time I’ve gained weight, gained wrinkles, experienced acne for the. first. time. (probs karma for not dealing with it in high school, but still, shitty), and I’ve experienced a relationship (before Bill) that stripped every last shred of self confidence from me. I’ve been through the same things almost all women have been through. But it’s taken longer than planned to rebuild that. It’s taken longer than planned to lose the weight from having kids. It’s taken longer than planned to lose the KitKat weight too. It’s taken longer than planned to be ok with the way that I look now, and not just feel horribly sad about the glowy, blemish free, stick figure that smiles up at me from photos of my younger days.
Before a bad relationship with my son’s dad. Before aging. Before the slowing of my metabolism.
Blah, blah, right?
Because that glowy, smiley, stick figure in those old photos was also before some of the best moments of my life.
It was before I had my beautiful son Jackson.
It was before all the birthdays in my 20’s – which have hands down been the best ones yet, and they’ve also gotten indisputably better with each passing year.
It was before meeting Bill, and getting two lovely bonus kids, and before I started to grow into the person I am now.
And I might not like the way I look as much anymore, but I sure as hell like who I am a hell of a lot better now.
I try to remember all of this every time someone pulls out a camera. Every time Bill tries to take my picture. Every time there’s a special event and I have to let someone else take a photo of me where I can’t meticulously pose myself, and bark orders about exactly how to do it to make sure I feel even halfway decent about how I look. But usually I still forget. I still take 100 versions of the same photo of myself, just trying to find ONE that I can stand, I still apply too many filters (#hellyesfilter), and get too critical of the way I look.
There are still far too few photos of my with my children, and instead a million photos of my kids alone on playgrounds, in kitchens, standing in front of schools, parent-less and awkward because I have to be the one taking the photo, so obviously I can’t be in it! See what a great excuse that is! Everything is fine!
Even though it sort of isn’t.
It’s hard for 90% of the women I meet to deal with seeing themselves in photos, and that’s not ok, because here’s the thing:
Nobody is noticing this shit about us nearly as much as we are.
Our boyfriends and husbands and lovers all love us.
They all think we’re gorgeous, and they’ve seen us, like, super naked. Like, naked when we can’t see ourselves and are just standing around doing normal shit and forgetting to such in our stomachs or stick out our butts, naked.
And still they kiss us.
They hug our soft tummies, and let us hug them back with our big soft arms, and they love our blemished faces, and sweep our tangled hair out of our eyes to give us forehead kisses and more love than we can handle.
So I should be able to look at a photo of myself.
I should be able to wrap my arms around my babies, face the lens and just smile, for God’s sake.
And I’m working on it. I practice with my self portrait. I occasionally take a risque photo or two. I take selfies.
And I just look at them.
And I experiment with lighting, and I look at my face, and I know that I’m getting older, but it’s ok.
It’s a good feeling, and I like the person I’m turning into.
I like the life that I’m building.
And above all else, I matter, and my life deserves to be documented, and I deserve to exist in photos.
Not just for myself, but for the people who love me, and all the generations that will come after.