As a general type, portrait photos are often disliked by the subject themselves. From the early formative years of grade school on into the advanced years of adulthood, the uneasy feeling for the dislike of your own picture is universal. Yet it is not for vanity sake, or to spare the shock of another from seeing self-assumed horrors. Assuming you are neither a narcissist or a beauty queen with flawless perfection, you may be like the rest of the human race. There is real science behind the reason why you may not like your own photograph.
The human mind looks for patterns. The memory system of the human mind relies on pattern recognition and correlation. The face is the first thing we ever learned to recognize. A human infant scans the mother’s face and studies the detail closely, as one of the first visual/mental task to aid survival. We get so good at recognizing faces, that we often can not stop assigning faces to objects that normally have no face. A type of face pareidolia, where one sees a face in almost anything that remotely suggests a face shape.
We admire beauty and shun the ugly. This action is a survival skill to ensure safety and good family lines. In the concept of beauty, most anything that is balanced in portion with a good symmetrical shape is considered visually pleasing to almost anyone.
Yet, almost every human face is not perfectly symmetrical. Even though it can be very close with some, one side is not the exact copy of the other.
We are used to seeing the literal mirror version of our own image on a daily basis. Our self-identity fixed into our mind relies on an image that is flipped left for right, backward to what anyone else sees of us when they look at us.
When confronted with a photo of our selves it looks wrong, because it is a mirror image from what we have grown so custom to seeing. Even this small difference makes an unsettling feeling that something is wrong. It triggers the same fight or flight response as if something is trying to trick you.
After all these years, that reflective accuser hanging on the wall has had a laugh at all of us. Perhaps watching us age, maybe getting fatter, then showing it to us. When you do look into the mirror, compare that image to your photo. Let science give you some sense of confidence. You are you, and you that is all that matters.
About the Author
Eric London is a gunsmith based in Southeast Georgia. He had studied photographic art as well as science in high school and college, and he was a darkroom photographer for a small town newspaper for a few years. This article was also published here and shared with permission.
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