When I was a much younger woman, there was rarely a time when there wasn’t a camera in my face. Not that I was a fashion model, mind you. I was indeed quite beautiful–and, when we’re young, we tend to take more pictures of one another for some reason. There were times when it was totally maddening. So it’s no surprise that young women–who look good in just about any light and any pose–would, more than likely allow someone like Scott Schuman to photograph them for his famous fashion blog The Sartorialist, especially if being photographed by friends is a natural part of their world.
Yet I was shocked that Schuman would make a comment that older women, because we might not want our picture taken by him for his blog, are “vain”. Honestly, when I’m feeling pretty good about myself, I don’t mind someone taking my picture, and I know other older women who feel the same way. No Scott, we’re not “vain.” However, we know a few things about our appearances, how we don’t look great in every light, and how vicious online comments can be, so that we might indeed turn you down for those reasons. If you can’t really fathom the reasons, here’s a few explanations to help you out:
First, lots of us know about the uncivil world of online commenting, Scott. If online commenters can pick apart young starlets for their “fat” or whatever other projected appearance flaws, we older women fully know that we will be called “old bags,” “wrinkled,” “fat,” or any other nasty thing that nasty, bitchy little online people can think of. Older women, even when not photographed are often criticized for how we dress and how we look simply because we are no longer young and beautiful. And we feel that there’s no reason on God’s green earth that we need to subject ourselves to nonsense.
Second: we know how much we’ve changed since we were young. And sometimes it’s kind of shocking to see oneself in a photograph. Even if it’s not, we don’t necessarily feel that we care to expose our changes to a bunch of people who live in a world that is amazingly catty and bitchy and is itself quite vain (re the fashion world.)
Third: many of us, who were possibly photographed like crazy when we were young, remember when we looked great even in the worst picture. We were young, and beautiful, and every kind of light and pose was flattering. HOWEVER, now that we’ve got a few wrinkles and bulges and such, we know that certain angles of light aren’t the most flattering. We know that smeared lipstick on a young woman can be “cute,” but on us it can make us look crazy. We know that our glasses might help us see the computer, but might look uber-non-flattering otherwise. We might also simply be on our way to doing something better and really and truly do not have the time to stop for you…..
Yet there’s one other thing that those of us among the much-photographed know: if a photographer does not like us, or does not have a friendly rapport with us, our picture will be less than flattering. Therefore, if you, Scott Schuman, are approaching older women with a particular attitude, or preconceived notion, that we are “vain” then we just might sense that, through your lens, you will see us in a most unflattering way. Your pictures will then show us in the way that you, deep down in your sub or un-conscious see us–and this may be totally and wholly untrue. You might even project on to us your own insecurities over getting old and then the world will see us in that light.
Yes, Scott–some of us know that a photograph isn’t *just* a photograph, and that the relationship between subject and artist is what creates the image. We know that a photographic image is a complex amalgam of us and you. If we get a sense that you are not with us in some way, we will say no.
So, if you’d like to get more pictures of older women for The Sartorialist, please change your attitude a bit about older women, and project that when you approach them. You may find that, if you are kind, if you are caring about the light around them, how they are posed, and genuinely like them, that they will say yes to you. If Ari Seth Cohen can do it with Advanced Style, so can you.
(oh, and I’d dare you to do a photo shoot with me, but, hey, you’d probably see me as a fat, boring old lady.)
- Harpers Bazaar:Q&A: Scott Schuman’s “The Sartorialist Closer” (harpersbazaar.com)