Thursday, May 5, 2016

POV: Somebody Else's Portrait

Bella Portrait by Anthony Rigano
A million years ago, sometime in the mid '80s, I had become accustomed to various photographer types approaching me and asking to take my portrait. I had, I suppose, what you'd call "an interesting face." I was skinny, possessing a fair amount of physical proportion, had bright, clear skin, a good head of hair, and the blunt beauty of youth. I never looked the same in these portraits by others, that I looked to myself, so when I took up the habit of taking my own photos for outfit posts, I really relished the control I had in contriving my own image. I liked the way I made myself look, and I am too this day, really am glad that I got caught up in the blogging blitz during its early fashion heyday. 

Of course I burnt out, and aside from the digital collection of very flattering pictures of myself, grew weary of playing constant citizen journalist, chronicling my every thought and brain fart and somewhat questionable fashion choices. I grew bored of the selfie orbit, but I do miss the piles of pretty pictures of me. 

Since, I've grown considerably fatter, a few years older and couldn't give a live fig about current fashion. Trends, I had barely liked them to begin with but after 5 years of keeping abreast with what was in the now, grew to dread the daily "doll ups." Took to wearing the same day to day uniform of the comfy dress, a pair of slip ons and a terribly unfashionable battered red beanie, firmly planted on my head while I finally grow my  short hair out.

Last summer I paid a Seattle artist friend a visit as he prepared for a big move from the city to go back to college in Olympia. While we sipped beers and nibbled on cheese and crackers, he pulled out an old Polaroid camera and asked to take my picture. A few awkward snaps, and a few months later, he sent me the result, of which is the photo header for this post. 

I'll be blunt: I do not like it,  not one stinkin' bit. It's not that I don't appreciate the artistic composition or the textured ferns in the background, but I don't like the way it displays me. My image reads as chubby: flabby arms, swollen belly, and what appears to be the start of a double chin. Ugh and yuck. So I tucked the portrait away until just now, until I just re-discovered it while nosing around desktop photos folder, unlabelled.  

I should have labeled it: somebody else's portrait. Because as I look at this photograph, I KNOW I am looking at myself, but feel the woman in the picture has nothing in common with the me I know I could capture in a self portrait.

There's no flattering natural window light, no graceful pose, nada, nada, nothing. Just a sun drenched pic of Bella the Q, unfiltered. It occurs to me that there will come a day when I will look at this photo and be able to appreciate whatever fine qualities it possesses. 

Because it does indeed look like me. Exactly like the me that insistently wears those comfy dresses, slip-on canvas shoes and flaccid red beanie that does no favor for fashion.  I am guilty of  those old lady noodle arms, the paunchy middle-aged middle and signature slouch. But also me:  that toothy, goofy yet genuine smile, the happy eye sparkle and the irrepressible dark and wavy hair. People, just look at all those teeth; there's going to come a day when a toothless future self is going to suck in her cheeks and whistle with a lisp: wowth, my thmile thure looked allf right. 

I remember a friend from high school who was a "big boned girl," healthy and curvy but had gotten into her head that she should have been straw skinny. She thought herself plain and heavy until years later when she reviewed her high school photos and could appreciate her youth. "I wasn't fat," she later declared, "I had a beautiful body!" Then a sigh: "How I wished I had that body now!" I guess the moral of the story is to appreciate what you got when you've got it.

Remember, the real you can never be fully captured within the confines of a click of a Kodak. You are NOT your picture or portrait, no matter who took it.


Jazzy Jack said...

I've just had a lovely rummage through your drawers. I had a portrait taken for a Queers in Canberra exhibition last year. The shot they chose and loved was unsmiling, fiercely staring into the distance. They thought it looked strong...I thought it looked sour! I went and stood beside it at the exhibition and people didn't recognise me. Shows we have many faces and expressions.
I love this curvy, vivacious, curly photo of you. I wish we could hang out together.
I watched the trailer for The True Cost and was is tears already. Will show it to my kids but not sure I can manage the film. I grew up around poverty in PNG. Walked into Target yesterday and all the plastic smell on the cheaply produced clothes drove me out again...and people complain about secondhand shopping smell!
I wish you well in your new stores. The drag king killed me as well!!
xo Jazzy Jack

Lindsay Rickman said...

You are a muse for so many artists, and we see the the great big love you have in your heart, through our love lenses! That and, I know you have your own favorite angles, but every Bella side is a good side. You are a natural beauty! I like the photo, and happy to finally have made the time to read more of your posts. <3

Suzanne said...

We are all, without a doubt, our own worst critics. It is through perspective when we look back on our former selves that we can appreciate all we had. Striving to appreciate what we have now, knowing that it is but a moment in time is where the ever elusive seed of happiness lies.

Loved this honest heartfelt post!


Becky said...

I'm just not photogenic and have sort of given up, although I do feel like a look ok in person, so I concentrate on that :)

No Fear of Fashion said...

That was exactly what I saw when I looked at the picture: "that toothy, goofy yet genuine smile, the happy eye sparkle and the irrepressible dark and wavy hair". Just that and no other thoughts.
I have noticed that same as what you have: looking back we regret not having enjoyed how wonderful we looked without appreciating it at the time. Which is where the saying "youth is waisted on the young" stems from.
Therefore I decided I look freaking fabulous. Period. Nobody has to agree with that. I just know . (Big grin.)
And you are a wonderful person.