Being Comfortable in One’s Skin

I’ve been reconnecting with a friend I hadn’t seen in a year plus over the last few days and yesterday she says, “send me a new picture!” Her request sends me off on a small journey filled with laughs and the gentle reminder why picture memories do matter.

Now, she’s pretty photogenic and the ones she sent me only confirm it. As I’m flipping her shots I was reminded of how photogenic she is and how few photos of myself I take. I guess even though I have come a long way in my views of personal photos, old habits often die the slowest of deaths.

I used to be that kid who hated taking pictures. I’d make some monkey faces purposely in family photos as a sign of protest. “You don’t smile!” My aunt used to say over and over again. To please her I would try my hardest and then she says “Bwoy mi nuh want nuh plastic smile neither”. I was livid in my mind – what the hell was wrong with this woman? So I did the next best thing in those days – made my self scarce when I saw the camera. I swear I developed a sixth sense and dodging picture-taking with the same furor as felon on the lam.

I guess I had good reason back in those days – I was tired of folks poking fun of my physique. I was one of those tall kids – I’m 6’1” now – who was a bit of a late bloomer that looked a tad on the frail side. As a teen I didn’t take too well with the constant badgering from classmates and family alike, and it made shunning picture-taking that much easier to do. I would often let my words and not my posture do the talking with regard to my self confidence in my appearance.

What changed on my stance with pictures was flipping through a close friend’s photo album one Saturday during senior year in high school. I used to spend Saturdays at his house and while I was waiting for him to finish chores I spotted the album. His dad is an avid photographer, more of  a professional amateur in his own right. We would often take photography when at my friend’s house, mostly how to take landscape and nature shots, never people stills. As I sat and flipped through the album I realized why my aunt was trying her best to take pictures. Pictures serve as great windows into a moment of time that never change – it is only the lens from which we view the image that time can alter.

So that day, I vowed to get over my picture phobia. That pledge and some other life experiences since then have made me comfortable in my own skin and take ownership of my image. Now when I take pictures and people say “why can’t we get a smile out of you”, I say “tell me joke if you want to see my pearly whites”. Usually they comply and the picture comes out pretty neat in my opinion. We will see what my friend thinks of the few pictures I will send her, but I definitely had a chuckle or two posing for the camera. Being reminded by my friend’s photo album all those years ago that we really only get to take this journey once that has helped made me comfortable in my own skin and moreso in front of the camera.

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