The Mom Avoids The Picture

October 15, 2012

You’ll find almost no pictures of me on this site. There’s one on my About page, of course, and two or three of me speaking (although at least one of those is of my shoes), but otherwise, I’m nowhere, visually, to be found. This, even though I’ve posted thousands of photos here. Thousands.

The thing is, those thousands of photos are mostly photos of my kids. These are, with very few exceptions, photos that I’ve taken, which is one of the reasons that I’m not in them. But that’s not the whole story; it’s not impossible to arrange things such that the photographer appears in the picture, and in any case, Kyle takes tons of wonderful photos, some of which I’m not even hiding in. The photo on my About page, for example: I let him take that. I didn’t even try to cover my face with my hair, or effect a belly-concealing posture (mostly. I did squat.)

Here’s the thing: I’m not in the picture because, like Alison Tate, I don’t want to be. Not because I’m behind the camera — I can get myself out from behind the camera if I want to. It’s just that I don’t want to, not really. Because although I love the idea of having lots of photos of myself with the kids, so that they’ll have lots of photos of me, I’m not in love with it in practice. I’ve never loved seeing photos of myself. In the best cases, I don’t mind the photo – that photo on the About page, for example – but in most cases those photos make me cringe. The ‘me’ that appears in photos is not the ‘me’ that lives inside my head, or even in my mirror. I don’t want to say that I photograph badly – there are some good pictures of me out there – it’s more that I photograph differently. Especially now that I’m a mom, and out of my thirties, and more likely than not – especially if I’m with my kids – to have uncombed hair.

Which is, when you think about it, kind of dumb, but look: it’s my dumb. It’s not something that’s going to change. I’m not going to all of a sudden see myself in those photos and go, yes. Yes. That is my wonderful frizzy hair, behold! As much as I’d like to, and as much as I know that doing so is the right and good and pro-me thing to do, it’s a tough ask. What’s easier is for me to just suck it up, and remind myself that I don’t want my kids to look back over their family history and see only a shadow where their mom should stand.


Here’s my first step.

I encourage you to take yours.

(Note that the plush, vaguely phallus-shaped creature in the foreground is not a ploy to distract you from my frizzy hair. Mostly. BABY STEPS.)

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    Tragic Sandwich October 15, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I love your smile! And your glasses are awesome.

    ste October 15, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Lately I’m in tears or rather self abusive after seeing myself in pictures. It’s not good. I’m reminded of a quote my friend told me. “I don’t take good pictures ’cause I have the kind of beauty that moves.” Ani DiFranco.

    Rhana @ Dumb {Squared} October 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    So there you are! How lovely – you should be in more pictures. I demand it!

    I hear what you’re saying – thank goodness any pictures that exist of me are of my big head. If it were of my whole body, there’d be a whole lotta self-loathing going on.

    Anna October 15, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    love the photo, i was also encouraged by alison’s post and put a photo of my son and me up in my facebook header… baby steps indeed.

    Laural October 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    First of all, you are beautiful and should be in the picture. So good for you.
    Second of all, in my job I’m often required to take photos (employee intranet – nothing terribly artsy). The people who look the best … the ones smiling. The more people avoid the camera the worse they look. When you see a camera. Smile! (it drives me crazy when people turn it into a huge deal.)
    Finally, this week my aunt passed away. it was sad and shocking. She was 56 and had 5 kids and a new grandbaby. She was a wonderful person. And the one thing she did was get in the photo. Some of the images they showed at the service may have been ones where she rolled her eyes at a “mommy tummy” (well earned after 5 kids) or where her outfit wasn’t awesome or flattering. But, we were so grateful for those pictures.

    Susan October 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I have never reconciled how I look with how I think I look. I’m (possibly, roughly) halfway through my life, and pictures still startle me.

    Holly October 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    I’m always happy to see you in real life or in pictures.

    Renia Carsillo October 17, 2012 at 11:38 am

    An outrageously flamboyant friend of mine once said, “Renia, the reason you don’t like yourself in photographs is that everything sexy about you is personality and your fear of the camera robs you of that the instant it appears.”

    Maybe you feel similar? I’ve found that the ability to throw a flattering filter on anything has helped with this a lot.

    Thank you for the reminder that the munchkins will want to know we existed someday.

    Masala Chica October 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    After reading Allison’s post, I was obviously struck by how comfortable I have become behind the camera, but I have also noticed that it is rare that anyone grabs the camera for me and says, “hey, honey – you get in there too,” which I think is also telling in a way. I am going to make more of an effort to thrust my camera into someone’s hands and say, “go on, shoot!” and care a little less about how less than perfect I might look.

    You are beautiful by the way. Sunshiney pretty.


    Allison Tate October 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I love this, Catherine, and I am only seeing it now that Sarah Powers pointed it out. That picture is precious. And yes, it is the jarring difference between how I think I look and what I actually look like (which sort of horrifies me personally) that keeps me from jumping in pictures. I too am taking baby steps.

    I have been a fan of yours for so long, excuse me while I have a little bit of a fangirl squee at being mentioned in your blog!

    Thanks for this post.

    Jason Thomson October 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Find thing. When I first met you at CES a couple of years ago, my first thought was “holy crap what a vibrant and gorgeous person, I would kill to photograph her.”

    I often find that – outside of models who do this for a livig – the more beautiful the woman, the more hesitent she is to get in front of a camera.

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