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.....From this ..to ....to.........this ... in 4 brief decades

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Mr Average (?) or facets thereof - 1971 (approx) to Sept 2011

(Has my head changed shape or is it just the hairstyle? And no, I wasn't wearing lipstick!)

Click arrow to compare with respective horizontal flips:


'That's AGING for you'

I first placed a photo of myself on a site a little under three-years ago. It was selected from the four or five that I could find of me among perhaps 100 or so of holiday and other snaps taken over many years by my dad. At first, for reasons I can’t remember, I was apprehensive about putting my picture on the net. Perhaps I wondered if it might provoke someone to seek me out and attack me – or something equally absurd. Then Rod took that duff picture of me by the sea at Bournemouth so I shoved that on too. Even though I look more like a weather-beaten old sea dog than the lethargic landlubber of fact, Rod seems to like it - so here it remains.

Then last year (2006), by chance, sorting through a heap of junk, I unearthed a couple more old shots of me. I’ve since discovered others – one or two of my own: earlier passport shots, or the rare exception among hundreds of landscapes and suchlike; and I found several on slides inherited from my dad, which I examined for the first time only recently. Using a computer slide-scanner and zooming-in on tiny images of myself in group shots, I obtained a few more.

All this is a kind of new experience for me since I’ve never been even mildly interested in photos of myself before. It strikes me as a little bizarre, to say the least, but I reckon it’s a pursuit worth following briefly - and you can see some of the results so far on this site.

Because self-portraits have failed to grab my interest, I’ve never attempted to appear in more than the usual family shots. But nor am I camera-shy; in fact having my photograph taken has always been a matter of indifference to me. Which is surprising when I reflect that most pictures of me are, in my opinion, ‘duff’ - I don’t mean the photographer or camera – but, for one reason or another, I either look blind, mad, stupid or just plain weird. So most shots don’t even look like me - not remotely - as I see them at any rate. This is the fate, I suppose, of those of us who are non-photogenic. I don’t mind this; it’s never bothered me in the slightest; but if people are to be able to recognise me, then the bulk of my pictures are decidedly unsuitable – again, as I see them. This means I’ve picked out only the ones that look, to my mind, OK – which even then will include several that more resemble someone who doesn’t exist. But if I failed to include these, I’d have very few left - and at least in these I don’t look too wacky.

Excepting the ones of Rod on other pages - and allowing for how my appearance has changed with time - some of the pictures still look to me a bit like someone else, including those taken this year. As I say, this is how I perceive them – a subjective appraisal. So to someone else they might appear very obviously the same person. But I doubt it. If, on the other hand, I examine those several shots of Rod, they are all clearly of Rod – even when the angle, context etc, are completely different. This, I suppose, is the result of being photogenic.

Anyhow, reflecting on some of those old pictures, I reckon I wasn’t bad-looking. If only I’d realised it at the time! It’s an asset I could have made some use of – but again, this is a subjective view, and maybe I’m mistaken. After so many years, seeing afresh how I used to look is bound to evoke a distorted judgment. But I’m beginning to understand how people can become narcissistic – obsessed with their appearance. This observation is somewhat belated to be of any value to me – and maybe I’m lucky for that?

But if you think you’re attractive, then I suppose you’ll enjoy staring at yourself in a mirror - and even tarting yourself up a bit. I wonder if I should regret being so preoccupied with larking about, or pursuing quests that seemed at the time worthy and promising, that I never considered adjusting my appearance to attract, say, a potential lover? (Why else might one bother?).

How does it feel to stride confidently out and know you can attract virtually anyone you choose? Is this the great lesson of life: that you only realise what you’ve missed when it’s too late, as is so poignantly illustrated in the Pirandello sketch in my article on Kafka?

But I’ve had lovers – attractive ones too, I confess (at least, so they’ve appeared to me at the time) - so should I lament over those I missed out on: the gorgeous, striking, sensational heart-stoppers I lacked the confidence to pursue? Perhaps it’s just as well; they can be the worst - even when you’ve won them over, I know!

Wake up - Stop dreaming… In other pictures I am old, wrinkled and ugly. Some are more flattering, but none of them are quite as I appear to myself. Of course, I only ever see a mirror image – unless on CCTV or in a photo. But all this is subjective, as I’ve said – though the wrinkles are real enough! And my brain still remembers (and half-expects to see when glancing in a mirror) that beardless shot from 1972.

Curiously, when I load that shot into ‘Photoshop’ and flip the image horizontally, the person I see no longer resembles me; it’s altogether amazingly different. Try it with a picture of yourself. Maybe it will look about the same – like those shots I have of Rod, for instance, where it is unmistakably Rod in all of them. It could reveal how photogenic you are: the less altered by a horizontal flip (or by placing the slide the wrong way round in the scanner), the more photogenic.

Often, I’ve noticed, people who are considered beautiful are more inclined to have a symmetrical face than us plain specimens. I have several biographies and can make a superficial study of, for instance, Bardot, Dietrich and Fonda – or for that matter Brando and Dean. However, I get carried away. I don’t intend to follow this line of interest beyond what you see on this page. It’s merely a passing whim, a new angle on the concept of what constitutes a profile.

I’ve often been curious to see a photo of an author I’m reading. I guess I’m not alone in this: hence the once common tradition of shoving an author’s picture on the back of their books – or inside the front. This is still sometimes done, certainly on the dust-jacket of a hardback.

But why should we wish to see an author we’re reading? What difference can physical appearance make? Perhaps we expect a photo to reveal something more of them: some key feature that will enhance our affinity with (or understanding of) their work, or that will present a new slant on it (or on him/her), which we may otherwise not be conscious of? True, to observe, for instance, Céline – who, in a picture I have of him, resembles a wizened old tramp draped in filthy rags and living in squalor – only augments his image for me (ie, ‘Death on Credit’). Or John Pilger, who looks rugged and wise like his writing. Chandler varies - clearly not photogenic - but in some shots he portrays precisely what one might expect his tough, dry-witted hero, Marlowe, to look like. I won’t even consider the creators, who we never see, of that great mass of dross (is that adjective necessarily subjective in this instance, I wonder?) which is so popular these days – and maybe always has been, ever since Richardson – that is, the soppy, tedious romances of Mills & Boon fame, and similar. I ridicule and criticise these, yet their authors become millionaires and famous, enjoying the glamour that wealth and fame brings them. Which makes me what? A nut? Maybe. And I have thought: if only I could produce just one of those little tomes? But the truth is, I can’t even read one. I once tried six, one after the other, each time struggling to complete the first chapter. Needless to say, I abandoned the lot. So how could I ever write one? A person can only do what they have it in them to do - which I dare say covers quite a range for most of us - though with the help of a skilled make-up artist you can appear, within reason, in just about any guise you wish.

So there’s a thought!

And here's a couple more for the old brain-box to chew over: Ever wondered what it would be like to step back several decades into one of those old photos of yourself and meet that person you were? Or imagine if, all those years back, you'd met yourself as you are now?


Click for GALLERY



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The weirdness of horizontal flips


click on the arrow - back & forth - to switch from the original image at top of page to these mirror-image reversals. How weird is THAT?





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