I love my iPhone. No, I mean it. I LOVE it. Before iPhones, there were iPods. Even then I wanted to kiss the feet of Steve Jobs because I LOVE music so much. He so knew what he was doing. Small pieces of pretty metal and wire and buttons with huge impacts on earth, history and on my life. The camera feature is the most adored.
It simplifies selfies for our social media lifestyle generation. Is anyone even camera shy anymore?
My mom. She HATED her photo taken as much as I LOVE my camera feature; passionately. When we decided to do a slide show for her memorial service, my three sisters and I ran in our four different directions to gather photos of her.
We all came back with many photos of my mom holding her hand up in front of her face, of her face turned sideways, downwards or looking uncomfortably away at someone standing out of the cameras’ lens. Rarely did anyone capture the sparkle in her eye or the calming mood she cast on her family. She wanted to be in the background, not the foreground. And we let her.
My dad WAS a camera. I saw his Nikon more than I saw his face. When I look over his photos taken when we were children, it’s obvious that he loved taking photos of my sisters and me. He told many stories of our lives with his film and slides. It’s also obvious that he cherished us and our cute little noses and bright blue eyes. He captured them again and again (and again).
You hold memories longer when you can keep referring back to the photos that captured them. He has been gone ten whole years but his thoughts and emotions are revealed and brought to life each time I pull out his pictures.
I do wish he’d turned his camera on my mom as often as he did on my sisters and me, but I have a feeling that she did the same with him, too. So, like me, he probably stopped trying to take her picture.
Photo images are so different from our reflection in the mirror.
In a mirror you can convince yourself that what you see isn't what everyone else sees; the spots, the muffin top, wrinkles, the age, the extra weight.
But when you look at a photo, the evidence is clear and permanent and obvious. I am not at all photogenic, but even so, I’ll see my photo someone took of me and think, my hair LOOKED okay when I left the house that day, or, I looked fine in the mirror at home. What happened after? Maybe it’s what makes us so intrigued by our own photo. I have a brother-in-law who has lived in a wheelchair since he was a young adult. He told me that when he sees his photo, it’s hard to take in what he sees; himself in a wheelchair.
Seeing ourselves in a photo forces us to see who we are to the outside world. To people who don’t know us and to people who do. I think that someone really nice must have made up that lie about the camera instantly adding on ten pounds.
Dare I say, maybe it’s what we actually look like? Maybe we don’t like what we see so we sugar coat it a bit.
There was a time when I used to develop my photos. (Ha.) I had left a stack of photos on the kitchen counter in my to-do pile. My then husband kept putting a specific photo of me on top of the stack. I’d come home later and see it there and hide it back under the rest of the photos. The next day, it would be back on top of the pile. It went on for a few days until I finally asked him why he kept moving it to the top. “It’s a beautiful picture of you, I like to look at it.” I went back to the photo to look for the beauty or even a trace of pretty. I didn't see it. I saw the meaty thigh and the messy hair and the nervous smile. I didn't look at myself differently after that. I looked at him differently. He had a much softer eye than I did and I wanted his view.
I imagined that he must view me in the same way that I view my kids; beauty no matter what angle I'm watching them from. It doesn't matter what they are wearing or if they've brushed their hair. If they had ice-cream cone remnants dripping from their face, they were even more beautiful. They’re at their most beautiful while they sleep when I can peek in on them in the sunlit mornings with their delicate resting innocent features so bare and pure.
I took a lot more photos of my firstborn than my second, but now with my second born, I carry around a phone with a built-in camera. The chances of me taking her photo have gone way up. She is beautiful to me and I often take her photo when she isn't paying attention. And I can look at her photo again and again and the beauty is always there. Why can't I do that with myself?
Maybe we’ll all become more and more comfortable with our own photos because of the accessibility of a selfie. Because of our selfies.
If my mom were alive, I could be holding my phone in front of me and be taking her picture without her knowing it. I could have recorded her beautiful innocence and peace.
We carry our phones with us everywhere. Treasure and use your camera often. Take as many selfies as you want. Learn to love what you see. And take more Momsies for me. And make sure that you tell her how beautiful she is when she looks at her image in disgust. It’s hard to watch ourselves age, and it’s no different for moms. Fight her on this one and don’t let her win. Kiss her feet, if you have to.