I Hate Photos of Me

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
1st portrait
“I hate this picture of me.” Dorothy Catherine Draper, in one of the oldest photographic portraits. Ever. (Photo taken in 1839 or 1840, by her brother, Joseph 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.

1st Selfie, RobertCornelius
Robert Cornelius took this self-portrait in 1839, quite likely the first selfie in history, probably not because he hated other people’s portraits of him, but because he was the only guy he knew with a camera.

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?


Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

57 thoughts on “I Hate Photos of Me”

    1. So people would like them? How perceptive of him. Of course, everyone who new the person in the portrait probably thought he was a terrible photographer. 😉 Thanks very much for sharing that — you made me laugh!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My partner’s a photographer. We’ve noticed that women are much more likely to hate pictures of themselves than men. They want to look like the airbrushed twinkies they see wherever, not like the real and gorgeous people they are. What a waste.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Poor Dorothy. The bonnet has to go! I don’t like photos of myself unless they are meant to be funny- and, well, then they’re funny and I laugh. Otherwise? Ugh, not photogenic. I will submit to picture taking on special occasions (for posterity). And I refuse to get a selfie-stick! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sue, this post is hilarious! I may hate pictures of myself, but I love your post! Especially the quotes. Poor Ms. Draper. Honestly, though, the only time I ever liked having my picture taken was when I was in my anorexic/orthorexic phase and was underweight and rather gaunt-looking. I guess it’s proof that there is something distorted about the way I think, because I can look back at those photos and say, “I looked so good at that weight!” Good in a sick sort of way. I’m sure I look fine now. I can look in the mirror with confidence and feel beautiful. I’m not overly body-conscious when I’m at a party or out with friends. But I stopped allowing people to take pictures of me, for the most part, when I went into treatment, and that’s pretty much how it still stands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lulu! I’m glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is curious how we manage to create and image of ourselves in our own mind that doesn’t match how the world sees us. I liked having my picture taken till I hit puberty, which was not kind to me. lol. I had a few good moments in my mid-30’s, but other than that, I’ve had to be ready to cringe or laugh at the results.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh, not a fan of selfies. Maybe it is that they are too close to the camera, and so appear somewhat distorted? Once in a while, I ask one of my kids to snap a pic of me, just to keep some balance in our family albums.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Not a fan of pictures of myself. I get the occasional good one but i’m pretty picky. As for the selfie thing..I’ve gotten a few. Nothing more terrifying though than hitting the camera button only to find out that you it set to front view and you’re looking at yourself from basically under your chin……good grief. That’s enough to make you second guess ever taking a selfie again! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ugh! I hate having my photo taken. I recently had to have one done for business (day job) and it took me two dozen shots until I found one I considered passable. And then there are other people who just “sparkle” in front of the camera. I envy them!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Last time I had to get my license photo taken the guy at the DMV, I tried for a nice neutral half-smile, friendly without being alarming, human but not too human. I ended up looking like something fished from the East River, his eyes propped open with plastic film.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Never taken a selfie in my life…too horrific…not me, although I always look either half dead or wholly gormless…I just hate having my picture taken!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve taken to relying mostly on my son’s judgment as to whether or not it’s a decent shot of me — he won’t lie, because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed by a really unflattering photo of his mom. lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha😀 I shared a selfie one time on FB lol. It was suppose to be funny and it was. I showed it to my husband who just looked at me as if to wonder why I would share such an unflattering picture of myself. It was the point actually. We have to be able to take ourselves lightly. Life can’t always be taken seriously.😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hahaha! While homeschooling, we learned that birds of prey always have one ear hole higher than the other, too, though no one could tell me if the same side was always the high side. It helps triangulate the location of a sound. I suppose that’s why it’s true of humans, too.

          Liked by 2 people

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