Maybe I am more vain than average, but I have become less than thrilled about having my picture taken. In recent years I’ve noticed that the “me” according to the camera bears only a faint relationship to the “me” in my mind’s eye. So when it came time to think about posting a photograph of myself on my webpage, I couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm.
I wasn’t always camera shy. I went through a phase of photographer-boyfriends when I was more than happy to pose for soulful studies in romantic settings. Those pictures are still around somewhere, but I didn’t think I could get away with posting a photo taken when I was 20.
Then I considered taking a Cindy Sherman approach. She is a photographer who has make a career of “conceptual self-portraits,” that is, dressing in disguises and taking pictures of herself. This self-portrait in dress-up idea appealed to me. Maybe I could make my own conceptual self-portrait. Maybe wear a funny wig. I still have one from the year when parents’ day at my daughter’s college coincided with Halloween. I surprised her by pulling up in front of her dorm wearing a clown wig. She made me take it off instantly, so I barely got any use out of it.
Then I happened to be going through some files and I came across a photo of myself that I’d forgotten about. Not from decades back, but just last year. This was a likeness I could live with. It looked like me to me. Thinking about the day it was taken, I believe I know the reason why. My husband and I were on a trip to Sicily to visit his ancestral village and to celebrate becoming Italian citizens.* We had been kayaking in a salt pond on Sicily’s western coast. He was holding the camera. I wasn’t thinking about how I looked, I was just really happy.