Stranger in the mirror


As quick portraiture photographer and sporadic photo model I have never met someone really joyful about her own portraits, including myself. Moreover, certain persons, who at first enthusiastically pose, give signs of bitter disappointment with their pictures afterwards.

Similarly to me – when I posture for my colleagues, – my improvised models may well see in results of shooting only evil caricature on themselves. We feel confused and hurt in the core. With great curiosity at start, we are soon taken aback and saddened by the failure; though always try to conceal this.

Perhaps it is common among models to blame photographer for revelation of model’s unrealistic expectations. Models may even hate photographer secretly, doubt his good intentions, distrust his taste and professionalism. Giving no thought to how light conditions, situation, specifications of lighting equipment can influence digital imaging; we find pictures of ourselves awful. We pout and even cry over damaged self-image. Vulnerable because of complexes, we feel ashamed of over-estimations we cultivated about our appearance.

As I was told, some people have similar negative reactions when they see themselves on screen of TV, or hear their voice on radio. It takes some time to get accustomed to image of ourselves presented digitally by others. As if this interpretation always contradicts our inner vision. It takes effort and willingness to compromise to accept it. We have problem to equalize our inner universe and our image of self with momentum facial expression camera registers. It is not easy to identify ourselves with flat image, while we have hundreds of faces, grimaces and nuances of expression, clustered in layers. They correspond to emotional states we have. We know instinctively we are attractive, when we don’t pose, but live.

When we don’t look in the mirror and don’t do something to impress others – we have charisma of genuineness. Like river, ever changeable, ever new. Others often don’t see us – they recognize us. When they look at our portrait, they instantly connect image – one of our numerous facades pinned down – with our personality, as they are more or less accustomed to range of our varieties. Not so with us. We look at image and don’t recognize ourselves. We are not accustomed to variety of our facial expressions. Photo as conditional method of personality identification gives a clue that we can never be truly identified. Passport photo, as well as age, gender, nationality and social status say practically nothing about us. We are more than that.
And we know this intuitively when we look at our portrait and feel strange.

Galina Toktalieva

Kyrgyzstan-born author residing in Graz, Austria

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