What do you look like?

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Once upon a time, about 5.5 years ago, I was catless. I was going to get some kittens, but my uncle had two cats that they couldn’t house due to moving into a small apartment with 2 dogs, 2 kids and themselves. 2 cats would be pushing it. So I said we’d take them for a bit, until they found a house. When we first saw them, Ollie and Scooter were about 8 or 9 years old. They, at first glance, were, well, this sounds bad, but they weren’t cute. Ollie had a distinctive face, I’m not sure what it was about him, but he just looked… not cute. And Scooter, well she’s neurotic and her stress was showing. And so we decided that once they found a house, Uncle would take back his cats and we’d get cute baby kittens who would be cute. And just like you see that beautiful woman with the not so beautiful man (or vice versa) and wonder what does she see in them, we fell in love with the ugly cats. And they weren’t ugly anymore. They were perfect, adorable, beautiful cats. We’d call each other in to look at how cute Ollie was looking, just sleeping. And like any other people with cats they love and no kids, we took pictures and movies of our cats. (Shut up. You would too.) And every time, I’d look at the photos and think “that just doesn’t look like Ollie” or “Scooter didn’t look like that?!” In the pictures, they’re just the ugly cats we picked up from the my uncle and were planning on handing back. There was something about Ollie’s personality that was not possible to capture, or was at least very difficult to capture, on camera. I always found this somewhat profound and took it as evidence that there is such a thing as a soul and it is not a visible thing, it is a presence thing. There is something about someone that you ‘see’ that has nothing to do with the actual physical shape of the being, which is what a camera captures (at least if you’re an amateur photographer like myself).

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This is coming to mind as I take my photo a day. I look in the mirror and think, yep, you look fine, where is that clicker. And somehow, when I take the picture, I don’t look like what I saw in the mirror. I’m paler, my eyes look more tired, my face isn’t even the same shape. I look in the mirror again and I don’t see the same person I just took a photo of. And it’s not ‘the camera ads 10 pounds’ type of thing, I am often surprised at what I look like in photos. I recognize it as me only because I know I was there and posing at the time, but it doesn’t look like what I think I see when I look in a mirror.

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Is this a common thing? I can’t be the only one who has come across this. I said I thought I’d learn some things while doing this self portrait project. I guess this is the first thing that’s made me think, aside from the fact that I’ve re-learned not to take a photo with the camera below eye-level lest your middle be… accentuated. So what do I look like to other people? Do they see the person in the mirror? Do they see what the photo shows? Do they see something entirely different? It’ like when you meet a set of twins, you can’t tell them apart for your life. After you know them both, you can’t understand why they are mistaken for each other. Are you really learning where each freckle is on each face, or are you seeing the person instead of the body?

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Just a thought.

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4 thoughts on “What do you look like?

  1. I’ve thought about this a lot too. A couple of days ago I actually stood in front of the mirror with my camera, looking back and forth from the mirror to the lens and I really did look a hell of a lot better in the mirror. The camera flattened my hair and added laugh lines to my face. It’s rare that I look good in a photo, yet I know people who always look fantastic in photos no matter what. People have confirmed that I really do look better in real life than I usually do in photos, which makes me feel better. I don’t understand it though.

  2. hum, I thought I was the only one thinking this… Maybe it’s close to the surprise you can experience when listening to your voice recorded – sounds a bit like you, but much of it is so different..

  3. Exactly the same with me. But I think it is possibly due to the fact that you can alter your facial expression if you don’t like what the mirror shows you, but with a camera, there is no immediate feedback to help you evaluate the changes you are making, possibly inadvertently.

    And even then, in the mirror you see your own image with the sides reversed, whereas a camera picture shows you as other people see you … hm, not sure about that, come to think about it. Help?

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