Back in the Kodachromagnon Age, when film was both alpha male and alpha female, transparencies were born as slides, but could transform — by the mystical power of Kodak Labs — into framable prints whose faces were either glossy or matte.
Without intending to, some anonymous, incompetent, color-blind photo lab worker gave me the key to understanding the eternal (since 1839 or 1840, anyway) complaint:
“I hate pictures of me.” Everyone since Dorothy Catherine Draper
Well, that bonnet might be a bit much.
My epiphany began with a portrait my sister Patty had taken. She set up portrait studio lighting and background, 35mm SLR camera on a tripod, remote shutter release. Very pro. I wore a soft, fuzzy-edged, mint green pullover sweater that brought out the green in my eyes. Ah, vanity.
When the print arrived, it was the best photo I’d ever seen of myself. It looked exactly like me. But my beautiful mint green sweater was brilliant turquoise blue. So I sent the print and transparency back to Kodak Labs with instructions to fix the color.
When the new print arrived, the color was perfect. Then I noticed something I’d overlooked in my fixation on the turquoise blue: the mole at the right corner of my mouth was at the left corner of my mouth. That’s when I knew why I liked this portrait so well —
It looked exactly like I look in the mirror.
Yet no one else sees us that way. So when your family and friends tell you:
“What do you mean? That’s a great picture of you!” Everyone you know
they aren’t just being nice. They really mean it because, like it or not, that’s what you look like to the world.
And those selfies you take in a mirror that you like so much, and post all over the internet? To the rest of us, they just look weird. Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike you.
Consider Robert Cornelius.
I don’t believe Robert hated this. He doesn’t appear to have spent enough time in front of a mirror to have something to compare it to, does he? I mean, that bed head could give Wil Wheaton a run for his money.
How do you feel about pictures of you? Do you always think there’s something wrong with them? Do you take selfies you like? In the mirror?