getting my picture taken

I’m uploading lots of pictures to my work’s Facebook page right now, and in doing so am looking through the past year’s worth of photos of me. It got me thinking about getting my picture taken. I used to hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. As in, there is a period starting toward the end of college and through the next few years (I’d say 5 or so?) with virtually NO pictures of me.

I heard somewhere recently that when people (mostly women-identified folks) look over pictures that are just taken to decide if it’s a good shot, they look only at themselves and ignore the rest of the people in the picture. We are obsessed with coming across as “perfect” in photos. One slight imperfection and it’s a heinous piece of trash that needs to be deleted immediately. I’m certainly guilty of that kind of thinking, and while I get my picture taken now and don’t cringe like I used to, it can still be a struggle for me to not immediately go into fix-it mode.

Double chins. That dreaded phrase. It’s the first thing my eyes would go to anytime I looked at a picture of myself. Well, that and my arms, and my broad shoulders, and my short legs, and just all of the damn space I took up! I’m a whale! Clearly, this is some harmful behavior and it’s something I still struggle with sometimes. I remember someone telling me to tilt my head forward a little bit in pictures to get rid of that horrifying, earth-shatteringly awful double chin (/sarcasm). I confess that I still do it. It feels wrong to even type that out. How can I be moving forward in a journey to fat and size acceptance when I still feel the need to try and contort my body to fit into a more socially acceptable vision of beauty? The two feel incongruous to me. It’s not as though I go walking around every day with my head tilted forward so that no one can see the hideousness that is my double chin.

I’ve done only one OOTD here, and my apprehension about my own image in pictures is certainly a big part of the reason why. Over at The Rotund, Marianne talks about the importance of taking our picture, of normalizing our bodies so that they don’t feel like some sort of scary monster who must remain hidden. I certainly agree. Those of us who are fat are defying a systemic hatred of OMGFATZOBESITY just by existing. That’s pretty powerful stuff, when you think about it. But it’s important to take it a step further and not just exist, but to put yourself out there proudly if you want. One way I’m doing that is by trying very hard not to jump back into my old habits of tearing myself down when I look at pictures. Yup, in some pics I have my eyes half closed, or am making a weird face, or don’t have all my lumps and bumps smoothed out. And while this may not seem like a piece of radial activism, it is radical to me. And right now that’s what I’m after.

What about you all? Did you refuse to be photographed like me? What shifted? Or has a shift not happened yet? Do you take pics of yourself on a regular basis? I know that for me, just looking through pics of other fatties on blogs and on Tumblr has been absolutely mind-blowingly fantastic. Some day I would like to join those ranks.


14 responses to “getting my picture taken

  1. This reminds me of a time when I didn’t want my picture taken, and my mom asked me if it was because I was heavy. As rude as that was at the time, I guess I can understand why she’d think that. (And no, it wasn’t because of the dreaded fat, it was because I had a pimple lol)

    Besides that incident, I’ve never really had a problem getting my picture taken. I don’t really take a lot of pictures of myself, but based on your points above I think I’m going to make an effort to start doing so. 🙂

    • good luck with your effort, i’m cheering you on!

      isn’t it interesting that so often the things we choose to do or not do are attributed right away to our fatness, whether or not that’s actually true? I can think of dozens of things I’ve been told happen b/c I’m fat (or I tell myself happen b/c I’m fat).

  2. I have been and have known so many who hide from photos. Here’s what’s worked for me: and my BFF. I think you have to find a place/point where it’s no longer about you specifically. Especially with internet pics. I mean, it’s you, but it’s not for you, ultimately. Normalizing is important to me as well as seeing death fats WITH heads in their pics. I love when this subject is approached as I am still struggling with online identity and photo stuff. =0)

    • YES! I remember reading this post of yours! (and was quick to comment, haha). The idea of not allowing yourself to delete any pics is both terrifying and totally intriguing 🙂 you’ve inspired me, the wheels are a’turnin in my head about how to integrate more photos into this here blog. thank you!

  3. Once again the fatosphere is talking about exactly what I’m dealing with. I dread having my picture taken, and at one point I almost quit a job rather than having my picture taken for the company’s innerweb.

    I am not facing a situation that I HAVE to take a picture of myself for another company website and that picture is for the entire world to see, not just the other people I worked with. (My situation is somewhat complicated by the fact I also have severe psoriasis, so I’m not only fat, but I’m fat covered in flaky sores.) And I know I absolutely have to do it. I’ve been looking at a lot of photos on other people’s websites trying to figure out the best pose and strategies because I see other women’s pictures on various blogs and I think they are beautiful. My husband is going to help me create the best possible photo and is really handling my insecurities really, really well.

    I have such a horrible relationship with photos and there are very, very few pictures of me from any age, all the ones I could get my hands on have been destroyed.

    • I’m so sorry about the situation you’re dealing with right now. It’s interesting how we can so easily see the beauty in others yet have to struggle to find it when it comes to our own faces/bodies, no? I’m so very glad your hubs is being great! I’m wishing for you strength and courage!

  4. A shift hasn’t happened for me and I don’t know if it ever will.

    There are lots of reasons, one of the most important being that I’m not photogenic. It has nothing to do with my size and everything to do with how the mechanics of cameras capture light reflected off my face. Which they do poorly. People who know me and love me and are attracted to me have looked at pictures of me and said “wow, were you ill?”. I’ve learned some tricks for posing/lighting to make better pictures, but I still hate the whole process because I can’t just smile and know it’ll probably come out ok. (And yes, that dislike then comes through in the pictures, it’s self-perpetuating.)

    Looking at the blogs/tumblrs with pictures of bodies of all sizes has helped a lot not just in normalizing those bodies, but also in what makes a photograph work and what doesn’t. It lets me look at my own pictures more objectively, and again, gives me techniques I can apply to my own situation.

    • “It lets me look at my own pictures more objectively.” I like this, b/c generally when we look at pics of ourselves, there really isn’t a whole lot of objectivity going on. We rip ourselves to pieces in part due to all of the baggage we have around body image stuff.

      Lesley at Two Whole Cakes wrote a post a while back called uninvested in being beautiful and i absolutely love it, particularly when she talks about the fact that no one has a responsibility to be beautiful and that it is an incredibly loaded word. I’m not saying this applies to you whatsoever, your comment just got me thinking about that piece of Lesley’s. I think I’m gonna go re-read it!

  5. Great post! One of the things you mentioned about the seeming clash between the journey to fat acceptance, and still feeling the need to contort your body for society’s beauty, I think is totally normal and truthfully a huge part of the journey you (we’re) on.

    Most of us don’t just go from a lifetime of thinking we have to exist in one specific way to be seen as okay to all out body love and acceptance like flipping a switch- it’s a long process. That process includes knowing we want (and try, and practice) body love and acceptance, but with lots of shades of gray and pit-stop type places along the way. We’re changing a lifetime of beliefs, it’s all part of the ride.

    • sigh. wouldn’t it be lovely if we COULD just go from a lifetime of thinking we have to be one way and then love ourselves unconditionally all of a sudden? actually, i guess i wouldn’t, when I really think about it. because while this shit is certainly super hard at times, it’s also some of the most fun i’ve had and the most loving i’ve been to myself, so there you go. “part of the ride,” as you say.

  6. I’ve wondered about the apparent “contradiction” as well, since I can honestly love my body as it is in most other circumstances besides photographs! I think partly it is the nature of the still image, but still, I notice myself being more critical now (as a fat person) than I was as a thin person (even one who was obsessive about dieting). For dieters, maybe, a pictures is PROOF of all the hard work, and for non-dieters, maybe it should just be considered a fleeting image that does not add up to what you really are. I don’t know, just a few possibilities…

  7. I wrote about this recently on my blog and even started a weekly Rad Fatties Project. I’m hardly in any photographs at all. There is barely any evidence that I’ve lived my life! It makes me sad. I started a Rad Fatties Project in an effort to get over my dread of the camera and start to be able to look at myself more rationally–and to invite others to do so, too.

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