On the surface, this seems like an outrageous statement. And yet, my experience as a portrait photographer is leading me to believe most people are to some extent.
Our faces are our ambassadors to the world. They represent us. They express our interests and our disapprovals. They are the visible exterior of how others see us.
And yet, the moment a camera is placed in front of us, most will feel a knot of fear about what it might capture or reveal.
Over and over again, I hear statements like, "You'll have your work cut out with me; I'm just not photogenic. He (or she) is. He (or she) always looks good in photos. It's me who always makes them look bad! Ha, ha!"
Everyone seems to thing that everyone else looks good in photos, but not them. But then the reasons are perhaps not so surprising.
Part of it is the fact we're used to seeing ourselves in the mirror, with our faces in reverse, so when we see them the right way round, they look a bit odd to us. Very, very few of us have perfectly symmetrical faces.
We're also used to seeing our faces straight on, not in profile, so our noses, brows and chins look like they stick out much further than we expect them to.
And of course, for most of us, the last decent photo we had taken of us was 20 years ago, when we looked so much younger and smoother skinned, and in many cases, slimmer too.
The upshot of all this is when we see a photo of ourselves, we usually end up thinking, "who's that funny big nosed, fat, old git who looks a bit like my mother/father?" And when everyone else says, "but it looks just like you!" we're horrified.
These photos don’t seem to look anything like the person we know from the inside. And it only takes one or 2 bad snapshots (or ID card photos) for us to not want to have to deal with the whole range of emotions looking at our faces stir up.
So we prefer to ignore our faces and pretend they don’t really exist. Here they are, on view to absolutely everyone, except us.
The rest of the world deals with our face on a daily basis, but we chose to ignore it.
Very few people embrace their faces, enjoy them or are at peace with them.
And I believe these glamour photo packages most portrait photographers offer - where people are made up by make-up artists and hairdressers first - only make the whole thing worse
We need to stop comparing ourselves to some impossibly smooth skinned youth and embrace our lines, textures and all the aspects that make us uniquely us.
We need to stop worshipping the culture of plastic beauty and celebrate the life lived.
I think I’m beginning to discover my mission as a portrait photographer is to help people stop being scared of their own faces.
Meanwhile, I have to say that photo at the beginning of the post doesn’t represent me at all. It was taken in the mirror, and is therefore how I see myself, but not as others see me.
The rest of the world sees me like this
which is far scarier…