BY MRS B………..When I was a kid there would be a few minutes grace before anyone took your photograph. Perky auntie Peggie would announce her intentions, everyone would quickly take turns with someone’s comb and mirror and then position themselves. Peggie would then pop the camera away, ready for the next big event – she didn’t want to waste film – and everyone relaxed again.
Even a few years ago you could meet up for a walk in the woods without worrying about full make-up. You could slurp a cup of coffee in a café corner without a crash-bang- wallop-what-a-close-up. No one was signing you up for face yoga.
It’s not just one perky Peggie with a camera any more. We are surrounded by snap- snap-snapping and there are no grounds for refusal. You must be ever on-call for an instantly world-wide shared moment.
Most importantly, you must be Unbelievably Happy, awhirl with excitement as if you were in a tampon ad or a panellist on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. You must do The Face – The Unbelievable. You are the poster kid for The Unbelievable. You better believe it.
The Face is not just for an Unbelievable Party, it’s for having Unbelievable Coffee with Unbelievable Friends, getting caught in The Unbelievable Rain, playing with The Unbelievable Doggo and of course being The Unbelievable Guest at The Unbelievable Wedding. (If it’s your wedding then oh wow – you may have to schedule a few face rests in.)
Maybe The Face is face yoga?
Much like we think the Victorians and Edwardians were miserable old sods from their photos, will future generations wonder at our boundless rapture? Or will they consider us unhinged? If they see a picture of someone nodding off in the garden or quietly sipping from a chipped Muppet mug it might seem serenely exotic.
It already feels serenely exotic. And yet.. there is a fine line between a spontaneous natural shot and invading someone’s privacy. I don’t actually want anyone taking a picture of me nodding off in the garden. Face yoga ain’t covering that.
Despite no selfies on my camera roll I’m still caught up in this mass self-observance project by dint of existing. Or is that the mass self-projecting project? No self-centred shrew would refuse to be photographed and go and spoil everything would they? That would be unthinkable.. wouldn’t it?
Hmmn. My face can’t do The Unbelievable on demand. I find it exhausting doing The Adequate even sporadically. My default setting is The Don’t Even Think It. I suspect I’m bundled into photos to make everyone else look good in comparison – the control blob. Friends tell me not to be silly, that I look lovely. Protesting any further garners more attention, doubly unwelcome.
I imagine future generations pointing at the shot of the bog witch, gasping ‘What is that?’ Taken by surprise halfway up a hill or two bites into a crisp sandwich I wouldn’t be doing The Unbelievable. Not even The Hurry Up And Click. It would more likely be The I Will Crack Your Screen From Twenty Paces.
I want warning, I want grace and I want the final edit. Sometimes when our Monday walks are cancelled I sigh in relief to not need the half a pound of eyeliner for just-in-case.
I could hide away forever – or I could counterbalance the horror snaps by spending a relaxed couple of hours with someone who understands natural light and flattering angles, someone who’s business it is to present lovely pictures. Future generations might point and
ask nicely ‘Who is that? That human-looking one, not a bog witch at all, who seems believably happy to be in the frame?’ I’d be believably happy with that.