Before I’d ever been photographed professionally, I didn’t realize I had a good side and a bad side. I figured I was just completely unphotogenic. My husband (in how-hard-can-it-be? mode) once took an entire 36 picture roll of film that we still refer to fondly as World of Potatoes. It was quite impressive to discover how much a human being can look like a potato. Thirty-six potatoes.
But thanks to a very patient photographer and half an hour on Mac Photobooth, I now know that I have one good angle. It’s what I believe is called an acute angle, ie, about nine degrees. Not much room to manoeuvre.
But if you’ve got a good angle, even if it’s a teensy angle, you can manage. Just.
On Irish Breakfast TV the other day, the camera was aimed precisely at my bad side. Given that there are 356 degrees of bad side, I guess it’s not that surprising. But it was sobering.
Most of vanity, I’ve noticed, lies in the terrible gap between perception and reality. We imagine that we’re pretty much the same as we were at 28, give or take a few minor details. This is, of course, a gross untruth, but one that can just about be sustained if you happen to own a darkish, flattering mirror and don’t ever stray into the swimsuit department of Selfridges.
Which brings us to the most sobering thought of all: Namely, that the photograph you find appalling today will look fantastic in ten years.
“Why didn’t I appreciate how great I looked?” you will ask yourself. And then you will sigh and go about your business, having learned nothing at all from experience.
And overlooking the bigger message.