Reflections on Self


I had my passport photo taken day before yesterday. The woman looking back at me from the two small photos did not seem to be me. One is not allowed to smile. The photo tech looked at the image with a magnifying glass, could see my teeth, and made me have the picture taken again. I can’t think what would happen to a Customs Agent if they saw teeth, but it’s strictly taboo.

The first photos had a hint of a smile, but this too is verboten. The poor Customs agents of other nations must think we are a dour lot north of the 49th parallel. The picture had to have a white background; there could be no glare. Since my glasses offended the rules in this matter, I took them off. Bon Dieu! but I am looking old.

Mr. Stepford next door said, “We’re all getting old, m’dear. Suck it up. You can’t change it.” So dutifully, with this pair of grumpy looking pictures to offer into the Passport Office, I applied for my passport renewal today. It’s a much easier process than before. I handed in the renewal form only signed by me (no guarantor needed) and the photos that purported to match my physiognomy, and that was it.

“Is that it?” I asked the agent in disbelief. A friend had waited in line over five hours earlier in 2007 before they had conceived of this fast track method. I wasn’t in line for five minutes and the exchange of money and the verification of documents only took another five. I didn’t exactly feel cheated but I wouldn’t have any stories to tell about my Passport Office martyrdom.

“You seem pretty straightforward and honest to me,” he replied.

Huh!” I thought. This innocent face has got me through a few scrapes that I was involved in, with impunity. I wasn’t going to set him straight. No one needs to know about my youthful indiscretions.

Then I came home to a very nice comment from Forestrat. about my blog on the use of abstraction in realist photography. He’s got some pretty wonderful pictures of racing winter waters that are worth taking a look at; and his trekking through the forest makes for a good story.

His comment got me thinking about self.

I don’t like being captured in photo. I’ve grown heavy with age. I’d rather not be reminded of it. My face is not that youthful anymore. There are wrinkles. The two sides of my face don’t match. Sometimes I look like an elderly Simone Signoret, crusty and not to be messed with; or with a lapelled business blazer, I feel like a sergeant-major.

I’d rather be able to capture my image myself so I can control what happens to all those images that don’t work out. Like delete them for posterity. I like to edit what goes out there that is supposed to be me. I’ve seen some dreadful self-portraits (of myself) in my time.

Forest Rat had mentioned that he liked to take pictures of a reflective surface but then the camera always showed in the picture. There is a way of avoiding that, however. If you don’t want the camera to show, you can position the camera above or below the reflective surface and tilt the camera up or down as required. It may take a couple of shots before you get the right framing or the right zoom focus. Equally, you can position the camera to one side. You may get some distortion in the perspective, but sometimes that adds to the interest in the final image. It can be harder to keep the camera still when working at such an angle.

With a digital camera, there’s no problem. You can crop the picture to suit yourself after the picture has been taken. With an SLR, you might need to spend a bit of film before you get it right. And don’t use flash. It’s sure to ruin your picture.

I rather enjoyed what happened with this image that follows: sp-nw-bungalow-2-small.jpg

It has several layers of reflection and you don’t really see too many of my aging characteristics. It’s crisp and indistinct at the same time. It also gives rise to a question of what is inside and what is out. The boundaries are blurred.
And here’s another favourite:


…although I must have had a large coat on.

The photo at the top of this post was photographed in a mirror. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a polished mirror. There were spots everywhere that I didn’t think to remove. I’m not a stellar house cleaner, especially when there is a camera around to divert me.

All that to say that I’ve cleaned up that photo and this next one in Adobe Photo, but I’ve included them even though not perfect because I like the composition.



3 Responses to “Reflections on Self”

  1. Susan Cornelis Says:

    There is so much to fascinate in your blogs! Wish I had more time to take it all in. But I’ll be back.

  2. forestrat Says:

    I like the shot of the flowers in the glass. Some of them are very bright and “present” while some of them are fading away.

  3. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Welcome to my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for leaving a comment and feel free to add in some discussion. It’s what I’m hoping for.
    Forest rat,
    Glad to see you back. Reflections, both in water and in glass, are fascinating for the layers of meaning they can provide to a piece; or for that matter, the layers of looking. I find that the less literal an image is the more interesting it becomes. There’s something to delve into….

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