MUGSHOTS PART 6: THE BELGIUM YEARS

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So here we are. Later this year I shall be celebrating my 60th birthday (and I mean celebrating, as I have no intention of ignoring it). Which means I have been taking self-portraits – or selfies as they are called now – for more than forty years.

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These are all recent pictures, taken in the last couple of years, which means I would have been in my late 50s at the time. They are not airbrushed and, beyond some minor tweaking to regulate exposure, or obvious colour manipulation, nor are they retouched. As you can see, I hardly ever bother with foundation and powder, and only rarely with mascara and eye-shadow – not for any lofty ethical reasons, but because I don’t often have time to apply it; I nearly always seem to be running late.

I nearly always wear lipstick – this is my one major concession to make-up. Even so, there are some pictures here where I haven’t got as far as putting even that on. Also, a lot of what I think is called “bed hair”, not to mention “pillow face” and “past my bedtime face”.

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I have, however, been selective about what I am willing to show you. Throughout my life there have always been photographs too hideous to contemplate, and those have been suppressed, if not sprinkled with salt and ritually burnt. Since I am both subject and photographer, this is my prerogative.

There are no pictures, for example, of me doing a yoga position that involves holding one’s head upside-down, the gravitational effects of which are strangely reminiscent of a shar pei sticking its head out of the window of a moving car. But I have tried to select at least a few photographs that are quite brutal and unflattering, for purposes of record.

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My motive for posting these photographs is not so much narcissistic (though there is that) as to show women younger than me what a certain type of female face in its late 50s actually looks like without make-up, retouching, airbrushing, Botox or cosmetic surgery.

If, on the whole, I don’t look too bad, most of this has to do with lighting, pose, camera angle, facial expression and so on, but I think I’m learning to like my wrinkles. If I’d wanted to erase them from these photographs, I could have done that easily enough. But honestly, I don’t see the point.

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My ancestry, for what it’s worth, is a mix of English, Scottish and Welsh. I have ultra-sensitive pale pink skin with very pale brown freckles (some of which are becoming darker as I grow older), and tends to get slightly flushed if I drink alcohol, tea or coffee. I was a moderate-to-heavy smoker for about thirty years; I still do smoke from time to time, but you can count the number of cigarettes on the fingers of one hand.

The fact that I don’t care much for the sun, and have therefore led a fairly nocturnal existence for much of my life (I work at home, so for much of the year, the sun has already set by the time I step foot outside my front door), means my skin is probably not as wrinkled or crepey or leathery as it might have been – for now. I am sure there’s a lot of Isak Dinesen face to come – and if I look even half as cool as she did, than I’m fine with it.

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I expect there will be even more wrinkles in years to come, but for now I’m OK with them, and I think having been able to record the changes in photographs has been helpful, for me. Also, fun – and quite interesting. It was only when I started doing the mugshots series that I realised how rarely one sees unretouched faces of women my age in the media.

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12 thoughts on “MUGSHOTS PART 6: THE BELGIUM YEARS

  1. I think a big part of the sneering at selfies is the power they’ve given a lot of women — including us ladies if a certain age — to *enjoy* our own images. Apart from the occasional bit of concealer for the occasional blemish, I gave up make up long ago. I have two lipsticks, but I can’t recall the last time I used one. Age does sneak up on us, but recording it, as you say, seems to take the sting and the stigma out of it.

    • Good point. To enjoy and CONTROL our own images – just look at the obsession with whether or not someone like Kim Kardashian has manipulated her own selfies to give herself a narrower waist, or whatever. How DARE she! It’s only ad people and marketing folk and magazine art departments who are allowed to change photos like that!

  2. These are all brilliant. I’m in my early fifties and enjoying watching myself change. I do like a bit of make up though I was once asked if I was wearing it because I was looking for a man, which I thought was quite sad. Apart from the fact that I’ve been with my current partner for over 20 years it implied women can’t just look good for themselves.

    • Thank you!

      In my experience, women wear make-up principally for themselves. For some, I think, the ritual of putting it on is almost like yoga. And I have yet to meet a man who knowingly LIKES make-up – I once had a boyfriend who even whinged when I wore mascara (which wasn’t often).

  3. You look absolutely fabulous. I much prefer the “natural” look than the dreadful preserved and stretched look that the beauty industry wants us to have. Ultimately you can’t fool anyone. Genetics has a much bigger rôle than anyone wants to admit. Some people (like my mother and grandmother) look youthful and some don’t. Not much you can do about it.

    As you know we differ on selfies. I just look too hideous to contemplate. But then I do have a mental illness. I’m “happy” to admit I’m not normal. I think it’s good if you can appreciate what you look like.

    More power to you! You look amazingly good.

    • Thank you! Very lovely of you to say so. I guess I’m quite lucky in that I have never aspired to have a smooth forehead for ever and ever, and I quite like things like frown and laughter lines, and those little ones you get around the mouth from puckering your lips (I call them fencing scars). I bet you don’t look hideous at all, though if I had a cat as handsome as Pushkin I wouldn’t bother with self-portraits – I would just take photos of him all the time.

  4. I love the fact you’ll be celebrating your birthday! Looking forward to a post-celebration selfie too! My 50th is approaching fast and although I don’t normally, I’m planning on doing something special too. It’ll probably not include selfies but there are ways… 😉
    I sense a trend towards embracing age and feeling good about it lately. Everywhere I look, on blogs, sites or magazines, it’s there… I was so glad to see Vivienne Westwood’s new short, silver crop – coincidentally just before I read your post! I do hope the trend is here to stay, it’s about time (advanced) age is accepted as a gift rather than an inconvenience!

  5. Pingback: MUGSHOTS PART 1: MISSION STATEMENT | MULTIGLOM

  6. Pingback: SELFIES: I WIN THE NARCISSIST WARS | MULTIGLOM

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