My Nose Is Too Big
I was inspired to write this after watching a TED talk which really resonated with me and my own experiences as a photographer. The talk is from one of my idols in portrait photography, Peter Hurley. I've embedded the video at the end of the post so you can see his take on the topic.
So... let me start with a question. When you look at this photograph of me, what do you see?
If you know me, chances are you just see Jason. You might notice things like expression and how accurate a representation it is of me, but at the end of the day you just see the Jason you know.
What do I see?
My nose is too big, I have bags under my eyes, I have a massive forehead, I need a haircut, my ears stick out and I don't like how my neck meets my jawline. Oh, and really, could I have picked a more boring shirt?
I'm pretty confident that most of you didn't see all of that when you looked at the picture. In fact if I asked you to look again and look at all of the details I mentioned, you'll probably find it doesn't come naturally. It feels weird to look that deeply at specific details on another persons face. And while in the end you may agree or disagree with some of my analysis, I had to force you to look at it that way.
So, why do we do this to ourselves?
You could call it lack of confidence or self-worth. Or maybe its just impossible to see ourselves from someone else's perspective and void of some level of confidence, we have nothing else to see but the surface of our face. For each of us the answer may vary but the fact is, most of us bring all kinds of baggage to the table when we see an image of ourselves.
Let me lay some truth on you. Nobody gives a crap about the size of your nose. That's right. You're the only one that looks at an image of yourself and see's that. When someone looks at your picture, they see YOU, and whatever feelings or emotions that invokes within them. They see the whole image for what it is, not the details that you see.
When you see someone in the street that catches your eye, do you assess the size of their nose? Or how one eye is bigger than the other? You may wonder what the heck they chose to do with their hair that day but I'm guessing you don't go much deeper than that.
Don't worry, I can relate to you though. I used to be the same way when someone took my picture. I'd dissect it like a frog in science lab, passing judgment on every detail. And if I was looking at it with the photographer who made the photograph, I'd point some of these things out because there was some solace in at least acknowledging it. "It's OK, I know my nose is big, i'm under no illusions". As if that delivered some measure of comfort because i'm not oblivious to the fact.
But when the roles are reversed and I make what I think is an amazing photograph, and then I hear "I don't like my mouth", it breaks my heart. It saddens me that this is what they see. They don't see the emotion, the feeling, the real person that I captured. This is one of the gifts, and burdens, that my journey in photography has given me. I now see this self-analysis for the useless, damaging, soul destroying, practice that it is. And for what? Since we're the only ones that see it, we're confining ourselves to a solitary prison of self-deprecation. Well its lonely in there, and the meals are crap. So free yourself, be wary of your instinct to self judge and break out of that prison.
While I can't say I've completely vanquished this self-analysis demon myself, I'm now acutely aware of it and can much more easily just accept a photograph with the knowledge that its me and that no-one will look at it in the way I do. Its how the world see's me and the sooner I come to terms with that the happier I'll be. As Peter says in the video below, what choice do we have other than to embrace how we look?