Not so long ago, a few friends and me were trying to convince a friend to let me take her portrait. This was not to be published or anything, we just wanted to have a portrait of her. She kept saying she didn’t like getting her photos taken because she doesn’t like the way she comes out in pictures. Understandable, but selfish. You see, your portraits are not for you. Your portraits are for the people who love you.
I am a firm believer in the importance of portraits. Portraits document who we are, what we look like. They are proof of your existence in this life. A memory.
We often think of taking photos of ourselves as an act of vanity. It isn’t. It is an act of love for those who love us as well as an act of self-love. By getting your portrait taken, you are allowing yourself to admire your beauty, embrace your flaws and fall in love with who you are. You are allowing yourself to feel empowered. To see yourself, maybe for the first time, from an outsider’s perspective. And you are giving the people who love you something to remember you by.
It is uncomfortable to think about the passing of time. It brings a feeling of nostalgia to think about what is no longer. Life is constantly changing. On a good day, I wish things would stay the same forever. I wish I would stop aging as well as the people around me, but growth is unavoidable. A photograph allows us to make things permanent without affecting the natural course of life. It is like grabbing snippets of life you wish would remain unchanged and keeping them the way they are forever. A portrait allows us to do the same with people.
There is a terrible misconception that a portrait has to be perfect. We wait. We wait for our hair to be the right length, for our bodies to be the right size, for imperfections to go away. We are imperfect, and our portraits should reflect that. A portrait is not a representation of who you were in your lifetime, it’s who you were at the moment it was taken. We think beauty is what we see in the cover of magazines, that beauty is perfect, that beauty is fake. But there are multiple facets and interpretations of beauty. Reality is beautiful. There is beauty in our flaws. There is beauty within us waiting to be seen. We think we have to be happy to be beautiful, but there is as much beauty in a rainy day as there is in a sunny day. A portrait is meant to show your very own beauty.
If all goes well, getting our portrait taken can be an enriching experience. We learn self-love, we find aspects of ourselves we hadn’t seen before, we learn to love what we wrongfully thought were our flaws, and we feel empowered by this new perspective of us. The resulting portraits will be a lasting memory of who we were at that moment in time, they will outlive us, and they will be treasured by those who love us.