Cameras, by their very nature, record objective views of whatever they’re being pointed at when you press the shutter. We all know the image you’ve just captured can be modified, played with and otherwise altered either in the darkroom, if film is used, or on the computer using one of the many photo processing programmes that are available.
One of these programmes is so popular its very name has become synonymous with altering photos – PhotoShop. (Personally I prefer Corel PaintShop Pro X6.) Given that most digital cameras darken an image by varying amounts up to 40%, all I usually do with my images is restore that brightness I saw through the viewfinder.
But manipulation of images isn’t the point of this posting. When you look at an image of yourself, or at yourself in a mirror, you don’t see the actual image or the reflection. We all carry a mental image of how we look in our minds and that picture affects what we see. Here’s an example:
This was taken in September 1997, on an evening I was going to a party with some friends. It took me six months before I could accept that image as the way I looked because it didn’t match my mental picture of myself. Now, for most people, once that realization hits home, it may elicit a reaction of “damn, I’m lookin’ good” or ‘oh God, tell me I don’t really look like that”.
But, if you’re a transwoman, the effects of seeing that image may be more devastating. To the person viewing that photo, there may still be signs of “him” visible in the picture. That nobody else may see those signs doesn’t matter, to the transwoman, the signs are there, shining like a spotlight. The effects of this can be demoralizing. All this time trying to put the past behind us and we feel betrayed by what we see in the photo.
As the title said, your eyes may be lying to you. You’re the only person who sees that former life in the photo. All the rest of the world sees is a good-looking woman.
When it comes to your reflection in a mirror, or a photo of yourself, just keep in mind that you can’t always believe what you see.