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Forced Smile

By Sally Davies
October 2007, Cardiff
A digital story from Capture Wales

""Just smile naturally!" My mum's yelling as I try and force a grin for the camera. Trouble is, I just don't know what to do with my face. How many snaps have I ruined and ripped up, just because I didn't smile properly?

I haven't always hated having my picture taken. When I was a miniature, I enjoyed it as much as the next. But, as a self-conscious teenager, I began to hate how I looked on film and with the awkwardness of composing myself; I stopped knowing how to smile.

Worse still, my two sisters and little brother look great in pictures, just like in real life, but the camera really hates me. There's an empty space on the piano where my formal graduation picture should be. I detested the studio shot so much; I'll never let anyone see it.

I worried that if I died, or went missing, there'd be no photo I'd want put in the Daily Post. I made my mum promise that she'd use the only one I liked - taken when I was too drunk to know I was being snapped. The wine had smashed my self-consciousness enough to let me smile naturally, albeit with a bit of a squint.

But, as I get older, I realise I can't maintain this fear and hatred of the lens. Digital cameras, camera phones and online galleries - I can't fight the tidal wave of pixels every time the dreaded camera's aimed in my direction.

And after all, how could I not be happy, on the Eisteddfod Maes with my dad, sitting in the sunshine, what else could I do except smile naturally."

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a big fan of the smell of new books, but I'm not really fussed on cheese.

What's your story about?
My general daftness when it comes to having my picture taken. I've found it to be a tortuous process for so long, it's really gone past a joke. This year saw me finally get a grip over the whole situation, albeit a rather weak and trembly one.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
Well, I feel I owe it to my parents, my siblings, my friends, enemies, cousins, co-workers, and well-wishers. Anyone who's ever had a photo ruined because I've put my hand in front of my face or looked the other way. What a divv I've been.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
Meeting fascinating new people, working with a great team from the BBC, having a laugh, and creating a slick-looking video from a half-baked idea and a colourful handful of snaps.

Your comments

"Such a familiar topic for so many of us. I like that you put it together in a digital story because it's such an unconventional topic and yet it affects so many people. I feel your pain. I think this is why I have taken to being behind the camera. I believe it's very important to capture as many memories as possible for your own history and yet I am never in the middle of those memories I believe are so important.....my memories! Perhaps I will try to make more of an effort to get inside my own memories instead of being on the outside looking in. Thanks for this bit of perspective!" Jennifer - Ontario, Canada, Oct 2008.

"I truly loved this story since there are a lot of people who don't like to get their picture taken. I went through this same stage I didn't like to get my picture taken and I didn't want to see it if it was. I finally got over it and now love to get my picture taken (even though some don't turn out the way I wished). To tell you the truth I still don't know why I didn't like getting my picture taken. Your story is wonderful and you are a beautiful women so don't stop smiling ..." Holly Klassen. Canada, Oct 2008.

"I can totally relate to this story Sally! Though I love to take pictures of everyone else I always hide or cover my face when the camera is turned my way. I like how you showed your changing attitude towards having your picture taken through photos themselves. The photos at the end show that you are finally comfortable with yourself and no longer need to hide. Keep smiling!" Lori Rieger-Mackenzie, Chatham, Ontario, Canada, Oct 2008.

"I enyoyed the variety of pictures you used. It was open and honest and I liked the fact that you addressed it to your mom - I'm always taking pictures of my daughters and I'm sure to your mom you look perfect! Cherish the photos are precious memories," Mary Wall from Wheatley Ontario, Jan 2008.

"I really liked the way that you opened up to a personal topic. It is so true how many people feel about themselves in pictures. You chose a topic that can relate to a lot of individuals no matter where they may be. The narration was great and the pictures as well. Remember to always keep your head held high and thank you for sharing something that you have felt inside for a lifetime." Jadelyn Ontario, Canada, Jan 2008.

"Loved the story. A lot of young females these days are going through the same thing - always worrying about what they look like and what not, even though being you is the best you can ever look. I'm glad you started smiling, you're beautiful and your story went very well with the pictures you chose. Keep smiling!" Jenn from Canada, Jan 2008.

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