I discovered something quite by accident today when I asked some people to snap a photo so I could update my Gravatar–beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and somehow, the camera is only the recording device of that experience.
Last year, when I was searching for a photo to use as my Gravatar/avatar on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog, I really had only two choices. Unlike those who have boxes of photos of themselves, I do not. Faced with two choices and no money to buy a new one, I chose the one that felt happiest.
At the time, I assumed the happy feeling I experienced about the photo was partly inspired by the gift of corn rows donated by a complete stranger. If you’ve never had corn rows in your hair, you have no idea what a loving gesture that was. After work, she showed up at my attic apartment with a little box of rubber bands used on braces and I made her some tea. Hours passed as she parted my hair, picked up a tiny section, braided it to the end, and secured it with a tiny band. I felt bathed in love by her gentle handling of my hair and her generous spirit!
Another thing I love about that photo is that I was wearing my favorite shirt that reminded me of so many happy times. The photo was taken when I had been teaching yoga, and was not long after I’d sat beside Ram Dass at breakfast after he’d spoken at the college where I used to work. The yoga club had invited me to join them because I had gotten yoga included in the Physical Education curriculum and had taught the first class on campus.
Finally, the photo was taken in my front yard by someone I cared deeply about, someone who loved me. In short, the photo truly was my avatar because it represented me as being happy and the truth is that I generally am. That it was taken using a fifty-year-old Brownie Instamatic didn’t seem to matter. The camera recorded what he saw.
So even though I love that photo for so many reasons, I decided to change it today. I still don’t have a nickel to spend on a professional photographer, but I do have a digital camera now, and enough friends that I can ask someone a favor. It was in that hour today, with different people shooting me, that I discovered the impact of the beholder on the outcome of the photo.
Two of the shooters really like me. Despite being in their shops getting ready for the day, they both cheerfully agreed to help me. One said, “I take terrible pictures, but I’ll do the best I can.”
The other said, “Sure, we do this all the time.” The third, an accomplished photographer who took a class recently in Europe with a professional, was not necessarily a friend, but someone I ran into at the laundry mat, someone I had worked for once. Here’s what I observed when I downloaded the photos.
Those taken by two friends were snapshots taken by the closest tree with no falderal. Their photos showed me looking happy and as well as could be expected, considering that I had driven nine hours yesterday after an intense three-day experience in a subject I knew absolutely nothing about.
The ones taken by the pro . . . did not. Despite her expertise about lighting and setting, dragging me here, there, now over here, yada yada, in her photos I looked tired and ugly.
Like the picture taken by my beloved (despite using that old Kodak relic), the ones taken by friends recorded the beauty they each saw in me.
Till next time, I’ll be Skating Thru my days, contemplating what I’ve discovered, because now I’m a believer. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and the camera is merely the recording device for that moment. It’s a proven fact that observers affect behavior in research studies, why not with their observations thru the lens of a camera? What do you think?