Not all photographs are good. We carefully crop and apply filters and add stars and sparkles and captions, but for some photos there’s no escaping it. They’re terrible.
Someone took a photo of me recently that horrified me. It was a weird angle and I was lying in a funny position and all I could see was my strangely shaped nostril and the way my jaw seems to disappear from the side into shapeless neck. It was a true candid. I had no idea it was being taken. It was me in an unguarded moment.
It made me start thinking about my childhood. About how I could see in my strange chinfolds in that photo the way my mother’s head moved, sometimes. About how when we are up close to people the angles are awkward, how we can’t just move from photo-ready pose to photo-ready pose, and how the way we move through life in front of others is the mark of intimacy. As a child I spent years looking up at my parents from below, from the side. We didn’t stand still. We saw each other from all ways around, the way my mother’s tongue would flatten as she licked her spoon, the way my dad’s legs splayed across the floor as he napped. And now I hold you close and wish I could capture with a camera the way my eyes can only see the side of your cheek and the curve of your neck into your collar, wish I could save it forever, because this is what it is like to do life together, moms and dads and kids, lovers, friends. But no camera could do it justice, find the heart-swelling beauty of it. It would just be skin and fabric, blurry, pressed and squeezed. Everyone would miss it.
I don’t care about the good pictures, really. The world can have your avatars. Give me the pictures you’d never want anyone to see. The things that are unpublishable. Let’s be just us, in the space between photos.
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I just wrote this and am having a hard time letting it be, so I’m publishing it anyway. Because just writing doesn’t always turn into prizewinning meditations on the self, and that’s part of it, the letting go. Find other people who are better than me at letting go here, because just writers are the best community in the world.