By Louise Sproule
Sometimes, children are silly. I heard someone confess on the radio this past weekend that they put blueberries up their sister’s nose.
My childhood silliness was: I did not like to look at cameras when my photo was being taken.
At about age three, I decided to look at my feet every time someone was taking a photograph. Unless it was my mother taking the photo and even then, I was uncooperative, squinting and scrunching up my face, resentful at being asked to stay still for a moment. A big part of this foul attitude was to hide my shyness. I realize that, as I think about it now.
And so, many of our family photos show the top of my head where my face should be and there, beside me, is the top of my mother’s head, for she was looking down at me to see if I was looking at the camera.
It makes me laugh today. But sometime in the past few years, I finally made friends with cameras after decades spent avoiding having my photograph taken.
For most of my life, having a camera pointed at me made me feel exposed (no pun intended) and afraid, in some way. These days, I cannot quite remember what the big deal was. A camera is just capturing a moment in time. And I have learned from watching others who turn on the charm when they are being photographed. I decided to stop worrying about what someone might see and instead, opted to look into the camera lens as one might look at a friend.
It has been easy for me to avoid being photographed over the years, as I have spent decades taking photographs of others. Presentation photos, fretting about those few people whose eyes always close when a photo is taken, awards, team photos, wriggly kids, candid shots and news and sports pictures.
I have to confess: it is much more difficult to take a “good” photograph of someone than it is to be in a photograph myself.
I couldn’t classify myself as an expert, but I have certainly racked up a lot of experience. And I think the best people photos happen when the person is relaxed and their inner goodness is showing, or glowing.
And for that, a photographer has to do his or her part, too.
Getting people to think about something funny, or something good, exciting, or their family can make people glow and cooperate. All you need are a few seconds.
If you can spread excitement and fun and laughter, it is wonderful to see that reflected in a photograph.
But photographs can also capture pensive moments, sadness and sometimes, one can see that someone’s thoughts are somewhere else, thinking of another time and place.
It is true: the camera never lies.
It is much easier to compose oneself and hide our thoughts and feelings face-to-face than when looking into a camera lens, isn’t it?
Which brings me to wonder about what we show and what we hide from each other. We each have our boundaries and our own comfort level with what we share and what we reveal. We choose with whom we speak and when and where and how we do it. And we want to run for cover when someone breaks with convention and reveals too much about him or herself.
But having one’s photograph taken is akin to looking at oneself in a mirror. It’s just you. Exposed and on your own. No words to re-direct people’s thoughts or impressions of you.
Even though we each have a safe and sacred space inside of us, it is magic when we open and connect with others and show ourselves. When we are in that space with others, we can accept and give friendship, support, love and the laughter of kinship.
These are the times our real selves come out to play.
What do you allow the camera to see and what do you show to others?
Whatever it is, it’s okay.
But it’s nice to arrive at a place where your real self is always at home, always ready to smile for the camera.
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