By Cynthia Simmons
Years ago I fell in with a group of starving artists. I learned some good and useful skills while reading about art, talking about art, drawing, and working with clay. My eyes became more skilled at seeing and composing photographs as I developed my drawing skills. Working with clay forever changed how I handle food, dishes, and thrown clay objects. When I cut food—a cake, a pie, or a pizza—my hands are more steady and sure. When I wash dishes I can more precisely sense their shapes and weights. I now look for and feel the throw rings on thrown clay objects. Felt shapes now contain much more information.
I recently remembered another lesson from that time. That is, when you see a photograph of a person, the photographer is very present in the picture. He is the storyteller, telling the story.
There was a photograph of me, taken years ago, where I looked odd. Although the photo was clear and focused, I seemed to be composed of tense energy, as if I were constantly in motion. I looked “stressed,” overly slender (skinny?), with my feet not quite on the ground. The photo showed an angle and an instant of time when I was more energy than matter.
I didn’t like that photograph and could not make my peace with it until I learned another lesson: We’ve been told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And that public relations are based upon perceptions. And in this case the perception, the perspective, was that of a painter taking my picture. A few weeks later, I recognized that if he were to paint my portrait, that was the person he would paint. Because many of his portraits (in oil) showed both that same sizzling, electric energy and the stress on the person radiating, emitting that energy. Somehow, through an un-manipulated photograph, taken at the exact moment when I looked the way he saw me to be, he captured his take, his vision of me.
Not my own vision of me. Not someone I wanted to be.
Now, older and changing again into someone else (I’m growing into yet another pair of shoes and how I fit into the world), I look at recent photos of me and I don’t like them.
But, a week ago, someone else took my photo, and I saw that I’m still the person I remember myself to be. So my lesson here is—consider perception. If I look altered, perhaps the wrong people have been taking my picture. Or is there something in my life situation, something outside of myself, that is causing me to look… less than I am? sadder? more defensive?
Not good. I need to choose which shoes I want to fill.
Because if that one person can see me the way I see myself, then my new mission is to take back who I am. I am someone who is fit, feisty, happy, and strong.
Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.
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