Recently I had a chance to visit my family in South Africa and of course it was wonderful catching up with everyone! When it came time for us to leave it made sense to us to have some last minute natural family portraits, nothing fancy, just everyone sitting or standing close together in a beautifully lit area. As soon as the call for family photographs was announced everyone seized up. It was easy to manipulate the men, they got over it quickly. But the women were a different story.
The women in my family groaned harder than the men and completely stiffened up. Their body language had changed as well as their voices. One immediately began to revisit how unhappy she was with her body and, while being photographed, gave the strangest facial expressions. The other got incredibly nervous about how her body would look in the photographs and as a result made scary facial expressions.
Why do they feel this way about themselves? What made them think they were not beautiful? Why at this age are they not comfortable in their own skin? (I was really hoping that would go away eventually)
These questions cannot be answered by me but I think its important to understand they have their reasons for being the way they are. I love the women in my family, therefore I wanted to be photographed with them. I have looked up to them my entire life and think they are the most beautiful women I have ever met.
I want to talk about the simple fact that however one feels about themselves in the moment of their photograph being taken completely shows through in their photographs.
I didn’t realize what I had stumbled upon until this moment photographing my family. I tried hard to figure out why the photographs didn’t come through showing the women I love, the strong ones, the beautiful ones.
I looked back at photographs of myself during the trip. Now, of course, I was happy everyday being back home, it was beaming from my face all the time, but I did have a bad day. It consisted of the usual negative self-talk: ‘I look ugly’, ‘I am so overweight’, ‘this part of me is disgusting’, etc. I am sure every woman is familiar with these ‘ugly’ days. I continued my day and while visiting Cape Point I found a beautiful textured wall that I wanted to be photographed in front of. I handed the camera to my husband to take my portrait, I smiled, he clicked the shutter and I thought nothing of it. Later that day I looked through those photographs and thought ‘Wow, that’s an ugly photograph of me!’
While trying to figure out how I could’ve smiled better or lit the photograph better I realized I did all those things right. I got upset and closed the laptop.
Flash forward to now, I have been going through those photographs and it hits me…..I felt ugly and it showed. My family felt ugly and it showed.
A photograph shows so much more than we think. Obviously I didn’t stop shooting or being photographed. I came across a different photograph later, one where my face wasn’t the best nor was my clothing, BUT I loved the photograph. Turns out I was happy and loved myself in that one. It was a ‘I love myself day’ not an ‘ugly day’.
I think its important that as women we address what is making us feel ugly and WHY. Once we identify it we can address it in a healthy way and begin learning to love ourselves, because that shines through more brightly than anything else. You could be the absolutely perfect looking human but if you don’t feel acceptance or love for yourself, none of those features matter, you will still appear as an ugly person to others. Our mothers were not just grasping at straws when they told us ‘what counts is the inside’. The inside shines brighter than the surface.
On the practical side of things, maybe you become aware of these things that need work and don’t have time to work on it before a photo shoot – don’t worry there is a quick fix for this purpose.
Get happy, do things you love, be a child. I have a friend who loves splashing in puddles and drawing on misted glass (she is in her 30s). I love watching a movie or playing with the dogs. Some like to paint or dance. Figure out what makes you happy and do that before a photo session, better yet before you start your day.