Not-so-can­did cam­era

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

I re­ally look like that? I took in the stiff, lac­quer-coated hair, the crossed eye, and the mouth firmly and de­fi­antly clamped shut. But what re­ally stood out more than any­thing else in that pho­to­graph was my vi­brantly rosy cheeks.

I dis­cov­ered later that the pho­tog­ra­pher, at my mother’s bid­ding, had added a lit­tle post­de­vel­op­ment colour to en­hance my anaemic pal­lor. In my mind’s eye, though, I had been trans­formed into some­thing al­most clown­ish.

The years slipped by, my hair set­tled down and my eyes fo­cused in a par­al­lel man­ner. None­the­less, I usu­ally tried to avoid hav­ing my pho­to­graph taken. That early im­age, and the feel­ing that I didn’t quite mea­sure up in the cold, hard light of a cam­era, some­how stuck with me.

It wasn’t un­til I was about to get mar­ried that I agreed to have a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher record my big day. But I res­o­lutely drew the line at any posed stu­dio shots that would have my then Chi­nese hus­band-to-be and me trans­formed into bit play­ers from The Last Em­peror. I wanted my wed­ding photographs to be as can­did and as nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble.

When the photographs were fi­nally de­vel­oped, I re­alised that any­one who is even re­motely aware that a cam­era is be­ing pointed in their gen­eral di­rec­tion will au­to­mat­i­cally take up an ar­ti­fi­cial stance and strike a pose.

More­over, when I looked at the snaps of the young bride who had been co­erced into wear­ing enough make-up to keep L’Oreal in busi­ness for months, I had a strange feel­ing of déjà vu. The brightly hued face that stared back at me from those photographs wasn’t me ei­ther.

Be­ing ei­ther eter­nally op­ti­mistic or per­pet­u­ally fool­ish, I was per­suaded to take the plunge once again on my son’s first birth­day. Os­ten­si­bly, the idea was to send a cosy fam­ily photo to my mother in Scot­land, but I should have known bet­ter.

I bought a new out­fit for the oc­ca­sion, and vis­ited the hair­dresser to have my hair done. I re­quested some­thing nat­u­ral; some­thing far re­moved from the hard, crash-hel­met-like clump that I fi­nally ended up with.

When I ar­rived at the stu­dio, the pho­tog­ra­pher had me sit on a gar­ish, Ital­ian “re­pro” chair with my son perched on my lap. I then had my legs re­ar­ranged into a mus­cle-cramp­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion, while my then hus­band was in­structed to drape him­self lov­ingly over the back of the chair.

The fol­low­ing week, when I col­lected the proofs, my hopes of an im­age of fa­mil­ial bliss were se­ri­ously dashed. My son’s fa­ther was hang­ing over the back of that chair as if he were suf­fer­ing from a slipped disc, and I, with my new bouf­fant hairdo and out­fit, looked like Mag­gie Thatcher, the then Prime Min­is­ter of Bri­tain.

Still, my son did look kinda cute, so I sent the photographs to my mother. A few weeks later, I called her to ask if she’d re­ceived them. “Oh, yes,” she said, “and your hair looks very nice.” Then she added, “But don’t you think you look a lit­tle pale?”

To this day, I still baulk at hav­ing my photo taken.

Check out Mary on Face­book at www. face­­nei­der.writer. Reader re­sponse can be di­rected to star2@thes­tar.

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