These days whenever I see ‘selfies’, I always wonder - why would one want to take a picture of themselves? Aren’t photos for the memory of an occasion - an unforgettable event, a sad send off, a happy reunion and so on?
Nowadays, I open my Facebook and see many posting pictures of them taken by themselves.
Having grown up in an age when cameras were not that commonplace, it was a novel and prestigious equipment for anyone to possess.
When we sisters were still in school (ranging in age from 5 years to10), we grew up in Bombay and our father didn’t believe in owning a camera. But he loved to pose for a picture and always knew to turn his face just a little so that he shows his best angle. We had to wait for a week to see the photographs, and once they came in he would keep admiring his profile, showing-off to all and sundry, until my mother had to politely tell him to stop making a big deal of it.
Once a close friend in the building got a camera and all of us went to the terrace for a photo session. We went with lot of powder dabbed onto our faces and perfume sprayed generously. One person had a pair of goggles, and all of us started fighting for it as we all wanted to look like Sharmila Tagore, Nanda or Mumtaz, whoever we considered ourselves closest to in appearance.
There were about 10 of us in that group and the photographer had to take 10 pictures of the group, so that each one of us was seen wearing the dark glasses in a photo. Of course my father can be spotted with his head turned to one side a wee bit because he wanted to show his best angle!
Weddings were a good time to pose and take pictures, even then. I always found the group photos very hilarious. We would have a group of 32 or so people crowding and the photographer trying to fit everyone in frame. And each and every one of us - posing with smiles, frowns, straight glum faces, face turned at calculated angles, sometimes children open mouthed and yawning -had a story to tell when they saw the photographs years later.
Did we ever wonder if anyone from the wedding house actually cared about how we all looked? It was just another obligation they were respecting - “have to finish with the group photo routine quickly so we can go and eat” would have been their thought, I’m sure.
Sometimes we even cover and block out the groom and bride completely in our attempt to be seen in the frame. Yeah, well, they would have come in all the other pictures, right? One less wouldn’t matter now, would it?
Then a little later, when I grew up to be a teenager, came the video craze. No wedding was complete without video coverage. That became an added expense at the wedding. Video coverage was considered prestigious and one sign of a pompous wedding. Video recording soon became another vocation to be taken up by many youngsters.
And all of us who were novices in posing for videos ended up staring into the camera with extra glum faces, whether it was for the famous group photos, or when we were just eating or sitting in a group chatting. We would suddenly become quiet and peer into the camera for a second or two, trying our best to act natural, but ending up far from it. Our parents had taught us to eat everything that was served and not waste a single morsel. But when the videographer was covering us while we were eating, we did not want to look greedy, so we would leave a piece of laddoo or vada uneaten. Building a good impression for that one second of coverage was more important than the ‘right thing to do’ - not wasting food!
The worst would be standing for a group photo and not knowing if we should act natural and continue talking so it looked candid for the videographer, or pose and give our best angle for the still-photographer, as both would be taking the pictures together!
Those were the days when there was a little nervousness, novelty, pride and simplicity in getting photographed!
Some of these things are pretty much the same even these days. We still queue up during wedding receptions and wait patiently for a group photo. We still think ‘dark glasses’ or ‘shades’, as the goggles are called these days suddenly adds to our style quotient.
But one thing I still cannot comprehend is -Selfies.
Recently my son took a selfie of a bunch of us, and we all look like we are vacantly staring into the sky as he is tall and had the camera held up even higher in his outstretched hand.
I don’t think I will ever get savvy at selfies. Even now every time I go to a studio to take a passport size photo for visa applications, I have to be told to look just a little up, no right... maybe a little down…no, no, don’t close your eyes… Phew!!
After all these instructions my passport picture looks like one picked out of the “most wanted” list from the police station nearby.
If I were in the immigration counter looking at that picture on the passport before me, I know I would hit the alarm button immediately!
With such a knack for posing I would never attempt selfies!