In this day and age when we don’t know who or what to believe, surely something we
trust, day after day, hasn’t let us down! That something is the mirror we look into numerous times a day. Granted our image is reversed in the mirror. Your right eye is now your left eye, etc. The backward image and person we see in the mirror is profoundly different from what is real. Here’s an experiment. To find your actual mirror image take two mirrors and place them at right angles. This is a mirror that reflects you as others see you. Our mirrors shows one perspective but to really see what we look like we must see ourselves through the eyes of a friend. This is far to complicated for me to understand, but it may be the answer to why we often hate photographs taken of us. A camera sees a version of us we rarely see.
I must say this is helping me understand why someone will rave on about how good a photo is of me, one I don’t like at all. Here’s the advice given to me: “Trust your friend, because they know more what you look like than you do.”
Have you seen the 3-minute video produced by Dove and entitled, “Dove Real Beauty
Sketches.” It proves as humans we tend to see ourselves through rose colored glasses. This test shows that most of us think that we look better than we actually do. Dove’s experiment involved making a sketch of a person, then enhancing it and producing several versions of the original. The person sketched is then asked to identify the unmodified picture. Nearly always, they tended to select an attractively enhanced one.
Getting back to the mirror. I remember my daughter looking into the mirror above my sink and saying, “yuk!’ She didn’t like the image. I often find when looking in some rest rooms’ mirrors that sometimes I detest what I see and other times I like the image better than the one I see at home. Are mirrors unreliable? I’ve always thought the difference was in the lighting. You may decide to put this whole subject out of your mind, but it does explain that our mirror is how we actually look and our picture is how others see us. Got it?
Under these circumstances, I wonder how an artist ever paints a portrait to the subject’s
liking? People tend to have a view about what they want their portrait to look like and that oftentimes is to be seen as the “fairest of them all.” You may be aware of the recent furor over the Duchess of Cambridge’s first portrait and how people expressed their dislike of it directly to the painter, Paul Emsley. The Duchess herself was very gracious about it, and it could be because she liked it. To be good at doing portraits one must be excellent at drawing but also be successful rendering a likeness, which expresses character and sometimes status. It’s not just copying shapes and lines, but how the artist sees them. Sounds like a near impossibility to me. At the end of this writing I have pictures of some portraits done of me. They are not called works of art but, rather, works of love.
I find it most interesting that when George W. Bush left the presidency he began to paint
and he didn’t stop at landscapes, he went on to doing portraits. In his recent book, “41: A Portrait of My Father” there is a portrait he did of himself and his father, a good likeness of both of them. The book is a love story about his dad and the portrait is also a work of love. He did advise that a person should never paint his wife or mother. Bush said when he left the office of president it wasn’t the power or the fame that he missed, but the lack of having any responsibilities. He knew it was important to stay stimulated and painting helped fill that void.
We are coming to the end of Shirl and You, and I like to think that we are not different than our mirrored images? “But not so,” say the researchers.” If photograph-you looked like mirror-image you, everyone else would think you look bizarre.” We might prefer a facial photograph that corresponds to our mirror image, but our friends would say it doesn’t look like us. I think it best not to worry about it, but decide that the photograph-you looks great. Either that, or throw away our mirrors and forget about that image.
This Shirl and You’s subject may be one you fully understand, maybe better than I do, so I definitely need to hear your comments. Look for my portraits below.