While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.  ~Dorothea Lange

When I got home from work last week, a stack of photos sat on the kitchen counter. It’s funny to see real photos now since all images now generally live on our computers and phones. The pictures came from the marathon Marc and I ran in Sept. While that wasn’t the most pleasant race, if there was one part of the it I felt energized it was the finish. Despite the near-death experience, when I felt the finish line near I got that burst of energy. I “finished strong” or so I thought. You see, my father in law bought a disposable camera and snapped a few action shots of each of us finishing. So now I have evidence that there wasn’t even one salvageable moment on that marathon day.
If a picture were worth a thousand words the first five of those words for these photos would be would be ungraceful, pained, awkward, squat and disheveled. I’ve talked about race photos before and I’m not being harsh. Most people dislike race photos. I honestly can’t believe there are companies (ahem Brightroom) that try to profit from the sale of these images.  I think it would be good for my business to advertise on their website. “This is how you really look, not to worry there’s help out there, who ya gonna call Foodtrainers.” It’s just ironic that you train and presumably get in shape for these races…apparently not, at least not according to these images. At least mug shots are only from the shoulders up.
Later that night,  my 7 year old had a homework assignment. He was to find a picture from when he was a year old and write about it. Does the teacher expect him to recall events at 18 months? And if not who does she think is doing this “writing”? Regardless, we sat at the computer and pulled up Picasa. W. clicked on Puerto Rico pictures. As he scanned through photos, I remembered the boys at 1 and 3 wearing water wings and chasing lizards. As I reminisced a photo pops of the boys and me at the edge of the ocean. They’re jumping over the waves and I’m watching. My back is to the camera so basically you see my butt and thighs. I zeroed in ready to pick myself apart and realized something. If this were someone else’s’ body parts I would’ve thought they looked fine. Pale and pasty but passable.  I smiled as we moved on to other photos.
I am not sure if the camera adds 10 pounds, Slate.com explains “distortions will be introduced any time you try to project a three-dimensional object onto the two-dimensional surface of a photograph. (Just compare globes with maps, which always make things look a little funny.)”  With race photos so universally hated I tend to think there’s something up. However, sometimes looking back I feel I looked better than I remember. It’s the same thing as clients telling me in retrospect they “weren’t really overweight”. It’s a pity we can’t appreciate it more in the moment. They say pictures don’t like but maybe they do or maybe we lie to ourselves. Hard to tell.
When you look back at photos, do you criticize yourself or think you looked well? What are your favorite pictures of yourself? Why do you think it’s often hard to appreciate our bodies or looks in the moment? And how gross are race photos?


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