Lessons in Self-Portraiture

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yesterday afternoon, I spent about 45 minutes in front of the bathroom mirror with my camera while Piper napped. It was a good thing I wasn't shooting with film, since it took about 100 photos to get the camera and me positioned properly.

I love how art draws your heart into it, whether you plan it or not. It occurred to me that I don't normally hate myself in the mirror when I'm getting dressed in the morning, but I know that I am rather unphotogenic, so I decided to try to figure it out.

Isn't it odd that I can photograph anyone I don't know who is not normally photogenic and I can't photograph myself? I realized as I was snapping away that the reason I can photograph others is that it is my gift to see their beauty. I don't look at myself except to improve or downplay who I am. I don't believe that I have beauty.

Never mind that my husband tells me all the time that I'm beautiful.

I tried imagining myself as one of my brides. My focus moved from what I saw in myself to what I wanted Pete to see. A smile appeared. I gave the camera the same mischievous look I would give to Pete if I was giving him trouble. Then I thought about my blog-readers. Many of you are people who know me, and many of you have gotten to know me a bit through my blog. You haven't gone running in terror from hanging out with me or reading what I write here.

By the end of my session, I discovered objectively why I'm not terribly photogenic. My face is somewhat complicated. I have dark eyebrows and high cheekbones, and a large red birthmark on my lower lip. My nose is just a little disproportionate to my face. When I smile, my eyes crinkle and almost disappear. All this makes thumbnail photos look busy and crammed. I look like I'm glaring when I'm not.

I decided that I can look at myself and admit that I am not incredibly gorgeous (no comments from my husband, please - you *are* biased), but I am pretty when my eyes are smiling.

When I focused on my eyes, the person in the mirror started liking me, and I liked her. I saw a sparkle of laughter appear as I realized that I was sitting there being silly. I remembered that my Abba doesn't mind my silliness. I looked alive. I wanted to capture the girl in the mirror on camera. I remembered that I was loved - that God had made me exactly as He wanted me to look (yes, I know that sounds trite). I could see her beauty.

Paul said in 1 Cor. 13 that "now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face." John tells us that we will see God as He is, and we will be like Him. It occurred to me that the glory that God is revealing in me is something that I can barely glimpse in myself now. It is not mine to manufacture. It is His to reveal as He finds occasion. It is not me, it is Him.

If only Christ can judge, then who am I to despise myself, who He loves?

Oh! Of all the funny, funny ways for God to show me something! I have been thinking a lot about what James says about faith without works being dead.

"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:23-25, NKJV)

I am learning that the works that make faith alive are the work of faith itself - stepping out on God when we don't know where we're going or what we are doing.

The above passage has always confused me, because it looks like James is preaching a doctrine of works. When I see myself in the mirror and behold what kind of woman I am, I do everything I can to fix myself so I look like... what? A model? In my spiritual life, I try to do good things, to measure up to what I think God wants of me - to be a doer.

But the mirror reveals. It doesn't suggest a fix. It is merely a reflection of what is. The mirror in James is "the perfect law of liberty."

Looking into the perfect law of liberty reveals that I am free from condemnation in the love of Christ Jesus. It reveals that I am loved. Looking at myself in this mirror with unveiled face reveals that I am being transformed into His image - from glory to glory.

If the work of faith is walking in the Spirit, the woman in the mirror just needs to walk.

Okay, epiphany finished. Here are a few of the photos I caught (You can see the progression in expressions.):

Copyright Informal Moments Photography


?ete said...

Oh yes you ARE gorgeous! I knew it, I knew it!

Kelly Sauer said...

You goof.. :-P

PaperYarnGirl said...

As a very non-photogenic person, I found your writing to be very thought-provoking. I'm not sure what I expect to see in the mirror/lens, but it's often not what I'm actually seeing. I'll have to ponder on this more.

And - by the way - YOUR pictures are very pretty!!!

nic said...

I like your thought process here. It's interesting to hear the way people see themselves and refreshing to hear them discover the beauty in themselves instead of either fishing for a compliment, congratulating themselves, or degrading themselves. Thanks for your prospective.

And from a very unbiased person - I just have to say you ARE beautiful. And you are even more beautiful when your eyes are smiling. :-)

Heidi said...

>>>My face is somewhat complicated.

Really? I've never thought this. Ever. :-P

>>>I have dark eyebrows

Your eyebrows match your hair, so I think it would look weird if they were lighter. ;)

>>>and high cheekbones,

Aren't high cheekbones considered a mark of beauty? - http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061122154619AAF6hI3

>>>and a large red birthmark on my lower lip.

You know, now that you mention it, I guess you do, but honestly, I never "see" it when I look at your face.

>>>My nose is just a little disproportionate to my face.

Now that's just silly!

>>>When I smile, my eyes crinkle and almost disappear.


>>>I look like I'm glaring when I'm not.

Never thought that either.

So here's what I think. I think the things we think about ourselves that supposedly "complicate" our appearance - most other people don't even see. From the moment I first met you, Kelly, I've thought you were gorgeous - and I was totally objective, because I didn't know you or know that I would like you as a person. You're more than just "pretty when your eyes are smiling" - I have to agree with Pete on this one - you ARE gorgeous! :) The things that you think take away from that...we don't even see.

Makes me wonder what I "see" about myself that no one else does. :-P

Kelly Sauer said...

*laugh* Heidi, you're funny! I guess I should clarify just a bit - it's not what I look like in person, but in pictures - hence the "photogenic." My features simply do not thumbnail well unless the focus is on my eyes. :-P

Heidi said...

Hehe, okay, but I don't even see any of those things in pictures! ;)

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