perfect imperfect

Finally tackling the clutter and jumble at the back of the bedroom cupboard, I discovered a tatty art folder that still carried the musty scent of the cottage attic. Amidst a number of old art prints and contact sheets, I found a photo that John had taken of me a few years ago. 

A snap taken with the last of a roll of film, it was an impromptu capture of the black leather coat that I'd worn pretty much every day during my late teens and - though less frequently - into my twenties. God I loved that coat. Knee-length and slim cut, it slipped effortlessly over the beatniky clothes and 1930s dresses that I wore then. The smell of the leather was enough to take me straight back to those days of clubs until dawn and the curious peace and calm of the morning walk home.

But the day the photo was taken we'd been sifting through our possessions before yet another move and I had decided, finally, to take the coat out of storage one last time and give it away. I don't remember seeing the print before. Perhaps John and I both rejected it: he seeing the imperfections of print; me, the squeezed eyes, messy hair and far too many teeth on show. I dislike having my photo taken almost as much as I dislike looking at the results. See those defensive arms wrapped around my waist?

Looking at it now though - sitting amidst the mundane mess of daily life - that hasty, imperfect print fills me with happiness. Remembering not just those distant memories when a coat was a talisman as much as a piece of clothing but also all those times of laughing so hard that it hurts.


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Reader Comments (11)

my first thought was that i loved the photo. it looks spontaneous, you looks really happy... and then there is the coat history.

funny what we can see - if we strip away every critical thought.
May 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
What a gorgeous photo! I enjoyed reading the story behind it. It's funny when time has past and we look again only to notice that a photo is really something special.
May 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralexandria
Love this -- love seeing you! (And how is it that you are just as I imagined you would be?).
May 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
I think you look absolutely lovely in this photograph, but I understand not enjoying being photographed. You should see photos of me as a little girl, always shrugging a shoulder and displaying a little frown.
Thank you all for your sweet words about that photo. Monica and Alexandra, you're right about both distance and dropping that terrible inner critic. Now I see happiness and a younger me. Anna, isn't it odd when we 'see' someone in our minds? I see you. But there are a few more lines around the eyes now (mine!) Denise, my solution to being photographed was to pull my skirt over my head...
May 22, 2012 | Registered Commenterlittle house
I like the impromptu nature you describe and can see in this photo. It is a lovely photo and it is interesting to think back on our beloved uniforms or favourite pieces. I still have a few favourite coats that remind me of art school days and wide-eyed twenties. It will be a little while before I part with those garments.

Happy to have found your blog.
May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGracia
Hello Gracia. I do sometimes wish I could retrieve that coat - just to give it a stroke and a nostalgic sniff! It was so much a part of me that parting with it was very hard and I'm not without a little regret. And thank you :)
May 24, 2012 | Registered Commenterlittle house
It's such a great picture though - I like it much better than those 'perfect' portraits. You look so alive, but yet, vulnerable. I pull that defensive move with my arms too in photos, and I tend to half-smile in defense as well. Ah, I love photographs so much, and this one is quite touching.
May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHila
We'd make great bookends in a group portrait Hila, with our crossed arms and half-smiles! Funny how we feel the need to 'defend' ourselves in photos. I'm hoping that age will ease my self-consciousness - but I'm old enough to know better so I'll probably be the old lady scowling awkwardly at the camera...
May 29, 2012 | Registered Commenterlittle house
goodness, is that you, you look stunning - what a beautiful photograph!

I found your blog via BYW 2.0 by the way.
It's lovely.

Sally :)
June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSally Cooper
That's really kind Sally :)
June 15, 2012 | Registered Commenterlittle house

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