Taking pictures of myself has never been my favorite thing. As a matter of fact it’s been my least favorite thing. I’ve always been dissatisfied and ashamed of pictures of myselfâ€”I would rather not look at them nor distribute them. Now on the other hand, I am not averse to others taking pictures of me. Is that a contradiction? Maybe for some it would be but not to me. When someone says, ‘smile, I’m taking your picture,’ I am compliant and obedient out of love because I know they respect me and really and truly want my picture. Now, with the coming of online photo and video sharing, I’m seeing self-portraiture from a whole new perspective.
Now, I have long since seen the value in written self-disclosure. The internet and the world wide web has really blown that wide open. From the time I started using the web, I have been using the written word to reveal what I am thinking and feeling. Sometimes more than others to be sureâ€”nonetheless I have used the written word to reveal myself to others. Before the web came about I used letters to communicate, then the telephone of course. But those are just verbal, not pictorial. And now I have found BeenUp2.com, a web site that facilitates sharing your life with your friends by photos, subject lines, and conversational comments.
The first thing I noticed on BeenUp2 was the profile pictures. Some people used disguised, blurry or cartoonish pics for their “avatar”, but others used clear self-portraits, snapped with their cell phone or digital camera. When I joined I used a five-year-old photo my friend Randy took for fun one day in his home office. I have been using it all that time for everything online, But, as I carried on conversations with my online friends, I was encouraged to show a more contemporary portrait of myself. I felt I owed them that. Honesty is the best policy after all, so showing a photo that shows how much I have aged would be more honest. True? True. I searched my computer files and found surprisingly few good photos of myself, old or new. Finally I cropped myself out of a picture of Leslie and me that our friend Elizabeth took. Maybe I liked that photo because the person who took it was someone who loves me.
Maybe I wouldn’t want to do a self-portrait because the photographer in that case, or I, do not love myself as much as I suppose others might love me. In other words, any self-portrait I could possibly make would be marred by my own self-hatred. But now I saw others revealing the details of their daily lives using honest, but creative self-portraiture.
Britt snapped a photo of herself driving along in her car whistling. That got a big conversation going in the comments about the virtues of whistling, both as a solo and in concert with others.
Ian snaps photos toward the back seats of the car to capture his kids, but in so doing he usually gets himself on the side of the picture. Jen does the same, though it seems like she sometimes avoids getting herself in the picture. But she has progressed as time has passed and now includes herself more in the pictures she posts.
Layton and Jocelyn are another couple who use the creative, often dramatic self-portrait to great effect. Layton snaps his face as he works on improvements for the web site, sometimes showing triumph or elation, sometimes tiredness. Jocelynâ€”now she is not ashamed to show her face. She emotes and shows it as she snaps herself at her workplace (tired), on the way home in traffic (angry), or in front of the television (enjoying) as she views her favorite show. My favorite was when she had got a good report at the dentist’s and illustrated it with a great smiley self-portrait. When I saw that I wrote a response saying, “Jocelyn, you are a radical girl.” (And I don’t say that to all the girls.)
Some of the other BeenUp2 users have been growing more self-revelatory with their photos as well. Once, after Brooke posted a new picture, Ian commented that was the first really full-faced picture we had seen of her. The previous ones were all far way or taken at an obtuse angle. She has gone forward to include others, some with herself and her husband and some with the baby. Revealing the truth about oneself always helps others to love one. I believe that whole-heartedly.
So others are learning the same lesson, I think, the lesson that other people really do enjoy and benefit from seeing our self-portraits. Jonathan, another online associate, posts on his weblog the candid shots his computer takes automatically every six hours, just to see how he looks at different times of the day.
I have taken the cue and am now sharing self-portraits online. People want to know us and love us and being able to see our facial features helps them to do so. My BeenUp2 page.