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What Is It About Photographs?

What is your favourite photo of yourself?

By Jocelyn Johnson

I am not talking about pictures, albeit these days people tend to use the words interchangeably. A photograph can be considered a picture but a picture can also be a drawing or a painting. And throughout this post I will use the slang version of photographs, which is photos.

This post is not about professional photos or portraits, or images of landscapes or structures. I am talking about photos of ourselves.

The word photograph is defined as: “a picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused onto film or other light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally.”

The key word is camera. And during the last 30 years the film camera has been replaced by the digital camera. I believe most of the Kandi’s Land readers were around when using film was the only way to make a photo. You took the photo hoping your focus and light settings were good and after the whole roll of film was used, you took the film to a local store who sent it off to a lab for processing, and back to the local store for you to pick up. The opening of the envelope would reveal what the photos looked like. It was a magical time looking at the photos which were taken days or weeks or months before.

I was a late bloomer to crossdressing, started in my 30s. But the strong desire to see how I looked and to permanently keep a record of that look was overwhelming. A photo of me would mean the people processing the film would see me dressed as a woman; no way! The Polaroid camera solved the problem.

I took many Polaroid photos while I was wearing different outfits. Most were subpar images, but the thrill of the new me was intoxicating. An instant photo reminder of what I looked like was imperative.

All my Polaroid photos were garbaged during the “great purge” in my late 30s.

These days everyone has a digital camera and we all seem obsessed with taking photos.

This is what this post is about: What Is It About Photographs? Why do CD/TG people need to take photos? And for the most part show them to other people. Why?

But first I have to admit that most of the photos I take are self rejected: poor pose, bad lighting, closed eyes, no smile, apparel malfunction, head cut off, legs cut off, etc. Therefore at least nine out of ten photos are deleted.

So, of the acceptable photos, why do I take and keep them:

  • to have a permanent record of the event
  • to critique how I look
  • to show others how I look
  • to show off, brag!
  • to prove to others I have actually dressed as a woman
  • to show the world I am a woman
  • to feed my ego
  • to feel good about myself
  • to remind me of what I have done
  • to provide me with a personal history
  • to create an adventure and risk
  • to educate myself and possibly others

I’m sure each of you have other reasons.

Initially I was so afraid someone might know my secret. Crossdressing was taboo; socially unacceptable. So why would I take a photo and keep it? Also the risk of my spouse discovering it and knowing my hidden life.

I take and keep a photo of my dress wearing because I really like how I look. I’m proud of my beauty, and the photo helps me recall how absolutely wonderful I felt. The makeup, wig, dress, pantyhose, heels and curves. I am fabulous and feminine.

In recent decades anyone can see millions of photos of CDs/TGs on the internet. The sense of community makes us want to share: “look at me”, “me too”. Hopefully we get some positive feedback from people who see us on Flickr, FB, Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, Forums, Websites, etc.

But as a TG woman why do I need to have a photo to “prove” I was out en femme. CIS women don’t take photos every time they go out. I would guess that most CIS women don’t like having their photo taken at all.

I was very wary about showing anyone my female photos. They might expose me to the world and my secret would be out. But as I developed friends in our CD/TG community I shared photos of myself. I was happy to do this for friends. And now on Kandi’s Land I have posted lots of photos of my feminine side.

Each of us probably has a favourite photo that makes us feel so special. That particular photo fills us with great pride and it is a reminder of the inner peace and happiness we felt while it was being taken. Here is my favourite photo of myself. It was taken shortly before a dinner engagement with Kandi. At that moment, my life and appearance seemed perfect. That’s why we take photos of ourselves, sheer joy.

What is your favourite photo of yourself?

I love you all, Jocelyn

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10 Responses

  1. Jocelyn,

    I gave my personal conclusion about this some time ago (buried in another post, so it may not have been obvious). It occurred to me after a professional photo shoot. I looked at one of the photos and said to myself, “there she is!” I want photos because I am looking for the woman within. Like you I discard a good number of photos , but truthfully only a few communicate to me (not others, as I rarely share my photos) the reality I know exists. I keep taking photos regularly to find that special one, and I occasionally look back through my archive to see if I can sense she in them, looking back at me!

    You came up with many other reasons and I would guess each reason resonates with at least one other person here.

    Lisa

  2. Lisa,
    Thank you very much for your thoughts. I always appreciate your insight.

    You are so right; looking at self photos to see the woman that exists. Amanda did a specific Kandi’s Land post on seeing herself in the mirror and in photos.

    Like you, I occasionally go through the archives and see how I have changed over the years and looking for “she”.

    If you would like I will ask Kandi to forward you my email address and we could exchange some favourite photos. I think sharing helps solidify the woman within.

    Jocelyn

  3. For me photos do help me improve my look but also it does show me the flaws in my female presentation
    Now of course I know I’m tall which is a give away I feel when I’m out.
    A few years ago I would take photos without my glasses and well I definitely looked much better but unfortunately they are necessary for me to get about
    A very interesting blog today
    Thanks Joycelyn

    1. Rachael,
      It is great to hear from you. Like you, I feel a picture is more revealing then just looking in the mirror. Instead of calling certain female features “flaws”, how about things to improve on.

      But as I have come to realize the way I look is just me. Nobody in the world looks perfect (although some people think they do) and I am happy looking like I do, imperfections and all. If people can’t accept me as I am then that is their problem.

      Funny you should mention glasses. I have been wearing glasses since I was young. But you may notice I rarely show a photo of me with gasses on. As you say we look better without them. Oh no, vain me. But I do move about wearing my glasses.

      Be very happy with your appearance, what makes you special is the good and the not so good. (But really, who has the right to define what is good).

      Jocelyn

  4. Another great post as always!

    Of course, some use photos as a means of unashamedly fishing for compliments at places like Flickr – not that, ahem, I would ever consider doing that (well, not any more anyway!).

    I have quite a lot of photos taken since 2019 when I gave up the fight and succumbed to the inner woman. Initially, they were posted on Flickr but after I decided that I wanted to withdraw from public posting, they were all moved to Imgur and my Flickr account closed. Last year, I went through an extended lull in dressing – only dressing once in nearly 8 months – but the photos were key in reminding me who I am and went a long way to feeding the urges at that time.

    When I was active on Flickr, photos were effectively the currency there so I used to take loads. In the end, though, what I realised is that I was spending so much time faffing around with the phone or camera, I was no longer able to enjoy the time I was spending en femme. Those times are precious and we should be able to enjoy all of the positives, not get distracted particularly if that distraction leads to disappointment when we look at the resulting photos.

    Do I have a favourite? Several really – the three BWBG shots I posted in ‘OMG, it’s Me!’ (one of which, cropped, is by my bio on the contributors page) for starters and a few that I have taken myself rank highly too. In the end, if I can look at a photo and have to actively remind myself that it’s me, even if only for a split second, that’s good enough.

    1. Thank you Amanda for your support and comments.

      You bring up a great point about the possibility that photo taking can distract from the actual dressing. We don’t dress in order to take photos, we dress because we like to, or it is a part of who we are.

      I like your words “but the photos were key in reminding me who I am and went a long way to feeding the urges at that time”. Good self photos are extremely helpful.

      I’ve been known to fish for compliments, but as you imply, that may end in sadness.

      It is wonderful to have a few favourites; a great way to feel good about yourself. We all need to be happy, and photos are one way to do that.

      Thanks again dear friend.

      Jocelyn

  5. Jocelyn,
    I appreciate you’re not commenting from the taking angle but more the question od why we have the need .

    Just to take the point for a moment , pictures for me were easy because I was a professional photographer so I had the studio and darkroom facillites . Saying this stiil doesn’t explain the WHY question !

    The issue does border on madness , we are deep in the closet , we prefer people not to know so why take the risk of taking pictures ? The question isn’t simply answered as we have various reasons but the one word that may sum it up is VALIDATION . Coming out of the closet often means we are beginning to want to tell the world , we need to prove to ourselves we are presentable enough and hopefully prove to others we are good enough .
    The old saying of , ” a picture is worth a thousand words ” is so true . We tell people about our dressing needs but it means so little until we have the proof . From that we are hoping we get a good response so we are really looking for validation , and possibly ” the WOW ” factor if you like .
    As we take more pictures we usually analyse ourselves more , we start to consider refinements , what styles and colours suit us but that’s mormal behaviour for most people , if we look OK we keep the items if we don’t then we should learn to pass them on .
    Personally I found pictures so useful especially for the period up to going full time , it’s a difficult time with so many self doubts . They boosted my confidence and allowed other people to refine my presention and at times they are just fun . Nowdays I hardly take pictures , I’m where I want to be , I don’t totally ignore other people’s comments but I’ve found my style that I feel suits me . So any pictures taken now are of me are as Teresa on my travels as a woman , I have to say that really does feel good .

  6. Teresa,
    Thank you so much for offering your thoughts.

    I like the three words you used: validation, confidence and fun. Everyone needs those in their life.

    Jocelyn

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