For the past several years, I have attended funerals and memorial services for friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. One of the most common elements of the funeral/memorial service ceremony is a slideshow of the deceased’s life. This slide show can demonstrate the highlights of this person’s life, how many people loved them, and how many people they loved. There are photos, sometimes hundreds of them, where the deceased is prominent in the image, they are surrounded by their loved ones, they are vacationing in exciting locales, there is often evidence of work success, and others are photos of family milestones (graduations, weddings, vacations, first homes, and grandchildren.) The slide show is a remembrance of a life well lived.
And I’ve enjoyed watching these slideshows, as it gives me insight into a person I might not have known well, or it shows me a new perspective on someone I did know. There is something significant about seeing the whole of a person’s life in a 30-minute presentation.
I have wondered what my own slide show might look like if it would show the totality of my life and if it would show a life well-lived. It wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be on both accounts. My slide show might last 20 seconds, as there are only a few photos of me around. Maybe that’s common for photographers: we take the photos, and we are not in the photos. When I wrote about this a few years ago, it was to lament that no one wanted me in the picture (I believed). I’d be at a gathering, and someone would want a group photo. “Hey, Billie, you are a photographer. Take our photo!” I take the photo, but I’m not in the photo. I document the event with a photograph, but photographically speaking, I was never there.
That just makes me sad. Then the years went on, and I didn’t want my photo taken. I don’t let people take photos of me now. I hate the way I look, and I don’t want to see pictures of me as I’m hating myself. But someday I want a slide show of my life, a slide show that contains more than my high school graduation photo. I have accomplished much since high school, and I want to be remembered for some of it. Of course, people may remember me, but they will soon forget what I looked like. (No evidence.) I vow to change this.
Lately, I’m striving to change. I have been posting photos of myself on Facebook stories. I post this way because the images are only around for 24 hours. (Baby steps.) These photos are curated but not overly edited. I’m trying to show myself as I am. (Of course, I’m wearing makeup and my hair is styled. I’m not an animal.) But showing myself is a challenging thing to do, and I don’t like it. I’m insecure and fearful. I’m afraid of judgment and ridicule. But I must do it. I want a slideshow.
So, I post.
I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. How do others (or how do you) overcome an aversion to seeing one’s self in photos?