The last time I had to get my picture taken for passport -sized photos, the stars were aligned. I was having a good hair day, and my skin was experiencing a blessed patch of luminescence. Carpe diem, as they say, and I got a hundred or so copies made, planning to make them last through the decade.
Alas, this being India, where every new application for anything requires two passport-sized photos, I ran out last week. Argh! My supply of the glamour shot, so rare in this genre of photography, gone dry. I was aghast. Desperately, I searched for the photographer’s number to order more, to no avail. I cursed myself for not framing his business card and storing it safely with the gods.
Dispirited, I dragged myself to a photo studio to get the replacement taken. The photographer, being a jovial type, enthusiastically shared the three or four versions of me he had clicked. Oh, what a far cry they were from their predecessor! All of them looked like a study in capturing a woman gone mad, or on the verge of. Let’s just leave it at that.
Glumly, I picked one randomly, they were all equally bad. The photographer tried to give reassure me, but even his words of encouragement faltered halfway. He swallowed, giving a wobbly smile. We both knew he had dud material.
Imagine my surprise when I picked up the printed photos the next day. Out-of-place hair wisps gone, my hair looked properly styled and arranged, falling lightly on my shoulders (is it that long? I never realized). My skin was clear and glowing, unblemished by any lines, spots or discoloration. My eyes were bright, lips soft and pink. I looked up at him, he grinned back. A new glamour shot!
In that same instant, it hit me. I’d been photoshopped. My mouth fell open, as I stared at the smooth face in the picture. It was me, no doubt, but it wasn’t.
A passport photo, perhaps an innocuous application of Photoshop. But I also know how far it goes, distorting what women look like, creating impossible standards of beauty that ravage the self-esteem of many young girls and women. Even my own photo is probably not so harmless. Every time I look in the mirror, my imperfections will now be amplified, looking bigger, deeper, wider.
I think I prefer the woman looking mad. She’s closer to reality.