The Dreaded Curse Of “Bad” Photos

Do not adjust your monitors. The image below is not some work of photoshop magic. It is merely a scan of photos that are now irreparably stuck together because they were left on a radiator.

Why would anyone leave perfectly good pictures of a vacation to a tropical paradise atop a hot radiator? That is an excellent question. Well, that picture at the top of the stack was the only picture of myself in the whole stack, and I hated it. I couldn’t stand how I looked. Looking at this picture back in the summer of 2005, it only confirmed for me how fat I was (and yes, I’m definitely fatter now). Consequently, I never put the photos into an album, and “unintentionally” left them on a radiator, where they melted together. I had taken them with a disposable camera (my digital camera died in the middle of my trip), have no idea where the negatives are, and consequently lost all photographic evidence of this trip, save for this melted pile.

Totally ruined vacation pics

As a result of this picture and pressure from people in my life who were doing Weight Watchers, I embarked on my last diet. To make a long story short, I lost a bunch of weight, started gaining it back (like everyone else), found HAES(R) and fat acceptance and eventually gained it all back, plus more.

For the first time since that trip, I’m going on vacation to a tropical locale (with my fabulous friend Anne). In the past, I would have avoided any pictures of myself. The fact that I only had one picture of myself from a 5-day trip speaks volumes about my nearly lifelong avoidance of pictures. I never felt good looking at pictures – they weren’t reminders of lovely trips and time with friends, they were reminders that I never looked as good or “acceptable” as I thought I did. They just made me depressed.

Even as I got deeper into body acceptance, pictures were still hard for me. I could wrap my head around the idea that fat didn’t equal bad, but I always seemed to have more fat than I thought. I always had a bigger double chin, a bigger belly, etc. than I thought.

In the last few years, I’ve done some great experimenting with photography. I think it all started when I took Lesleigh J. Owen‘s class at the NAAFA Convention, where she encouraged us to take “bad” pictures of ourselves. Being encouraged to do that was really liberating. I also started to seek out more images of fat people in general, whether they were artfully done like Adipositivity or just regular pictures of regular folks. I realized that I needed to change my perception of what was “normal” or “good” when it came to pictures. I didn’t want looking skinnier than usual to be my only criterion for a good picture.

So, I’m hoping to do this vacation a little differently, and end up with some beautiful pictures, including ones of me.

Do any of you have this picture phobia? I hope you’ll share in the comments below.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Go to to get your free download – Golda’s Top Ten Tips For Divine Dining!

10 replies on “The Dreaded Curse Of “Bad” Photos”

I don’t do pictures either.  Looking at them makes me feel even worse about myself than I already do.  Friends have commented on it and teased me about it but I doubt  they fully understand the extent of it.  Whenever I see a picture of myself it makes me feel as if I would prefer standing in front of them naked.  It’s like the picture captures something more about me that I never wanted to show anybody else.  I suppose this goes back to the constant fight I’m told to have to try to hide and deceive people’s perceptions of just how fat I am and every picture defeats that; they make me look larger or, at the very least, display just how fat I am.

I have a weird relationship with photos of my self ever since I started doing cosplay.  On the one hand, I want to have pictures of my work and I enjoy collaborating with photographers to get the effect I want in portraying a character.  But on the other hand, it’s in photos that I see everything “wrong” with myself and I never judge myself more harshly than when I’m looking at the results of a photoshoot.


I still hate photos of myself out of costume.  I can look in the mirror and think I look great and then I see a photo of myself from that same day and just hate hate hate everything.  My hair will be drab, I’ll look frumpy, something will always be wrong.  I don’t know what I’m expection from a photo, honestly.  I suppose it is that image of photoshopped perfection, and even then, you think about a professional photoshoot like that and you know they took thousands of pictures before settling on the most perfect one.  It defies all logic that we expect snapshots of ourselves to automatically look like that, and yet so many of us do.

I dislike pictures of myself because they seem unable to catch my essence and I just look like a girl with big hair and a bigger mouth and yellow teeth. Even with some professional photographers I’m still not really feeling it. I also don’t stare at pictures for a very long time, because I will just find flaw after flaw.

So when necessary, I offer close ups of curls and eyes (which I really like).

When posting pictures of my daughter on facebook, I try to pick the ones where I don’t look awful, even if she looks really cute in them. I hate pictures of myself; either I look really heavy or I’m making a weird face. I’ve literally never changed my facebook profile pic from the very first one I picked; it was taken in the hospital when my daughter was only a day old so I figure I get a pass for looking haggard in that one.

I hate photos of myself, too. I’m not entirely sure where this fear comes from. Even in high school when I was a size 4 I hated seeing any pictures of myself. There’s this weird dissonance between what I see in the mirror and what I see in photos of myself. As far as I’m concerned I never look like “me” in pictures. This is probably similar to the feeling that I never sound like “me” on recordings.

I’m getting a little better about this. I keep telling myself that no one else notices the little things I do, that they think I look like me in pictures. I never judge pictures of my friends and family like that, so why would they judge me? But it’s still hard not to duck out of the room every time a camera comes out.

There is actually some truth behind “bad” pictures.  You know Viewmasters?  They worked because our eyes see at slightly different angles; when we look at someone, we’re seeing a rounded full view that extends slightly behind her back.  Photos flatten this out.  It’s not that photos make us look fat.  It’s that real-life vision makes us look thinner.

You also suffer by being photographed by someone shorter than you.  I always make sure to hold the camera up at a slight “looking down” angle when I photograph people.

I hate pictures of myself, in general.  But I can literally only think of one picture of my mom when I was little – the rest are pictures of just the kids, or the kids and our dad.  It always made me sad that she just wasn’t there.  She still rarely shows up in photographs.

I am making a conscious effort to get over the fear.  What people care about is that *I* was there with them, not that my skin is blotchy or my stomach flabby.

I want my daughter to have pictures of *me* when she grows up, not just of her.  Even if there is an instinct on my part to cringe.

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