Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On The Black Box

It has always been one of the most unnatural things for me to do-to stare into the eye of a lens for the sake of capturing my image.  This difficulty has been fodder for family stories for decades and it drew my mother's ire.  With care she gathered together all my school photos and hung them in the hallway across from the cellar door.  Whenever photo day came near, she would beckon me to study the expression in each photo.  There was no smile, but an odd pull of the lips that disappeared into a set of twin dimples.  No teeth were shown.

"Here, smile like this. Show your teeth," my mother would demonstrate accentuating her smile with a pointed finger."You do it, now," she coaxed.  I practiced in the tiny hallway, just me and my mother long enough to satisfy her.  We parted, each hoping for a different outcome.

While sitting at the kitchen table, she unhinged the glass protecting each portrait-the expression was the same year after year. As I stood in line waiting for the photo to be taken, I  practiced smiling as my mother had shown me. Sitting on that big black box and staring into the lens made me self-conscious and nervous.  I always deferred to the default 'no smile, no teeth'-my mother's disappointment.

 Even today, portraits are such a difficult undertaking. Everyone is coaxing me to smile. And, I just can't.  I really don't know why.


Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Thank you for this. Such an honest post - and this is exactly how I feel, too. I just hate having my photograph taken. Excruciating. i like the one of you, though, so interesting and full of character.

Book Mama said...

Glad you started asking yourself the question, and it seems that you've described at least part of the (well-written, thought-provoking) answer. Keep going. Keep doing self-portraits along the way (did you see the NYTimes article on selfies about 8 days ago?).