Being Photographed: to Be Seen, or Not to Be Seen?

by Adrienne Ryan, Brisbane, Australia

Recently I was assisting a photographer as he photographed some beautifully ordinary individuals. I noticed how relaxed and open the people were. As we went on I came to realise there was a question silently being asked every time the camera was raised: “how much will you allow of you to be seen?”. I felt this myself when the camera was on me and I realised:

We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen.

Standing in front of a camera is like standing in front of the world itself with every eye upon us. In the face of the world and all its expectations we make a decision: how much to hold back and how much to let out. 

“To be or not to be?” plays out in front of the camera…
and in front of life.

We’ve played this game for so long that it has become normal. When the camera was lowered the tension of how much to let be seen was relieved and people relaxed, until the camera was pointed again and the measuring returned. It is not a huge change, but a subtle veil that falls between subject and lens.

When people let themselves go and seemed to say with their whole being, “This is me – here I am, you can look at me, I’ll let you see all of me, there’s nothing here I am holding back or hiding or keeping tucked away”, it was exquisite and powerful to behold – like the full sun coming out from behind cloud cover. It felt warm, effortless, mighty, clear, unimposing and inspiring. There was no ‘on’ or ‘off’ button – they remained this way when the camera was lowered.

“To be seen or not to be seen?” is the question we answer every day in front of life… and the question is the same when we’re being photographed. Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves. It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself. It is an opportunity to let go, to not buy into hiding or holding back a drop of the ever unfolding beauty of who you are.

Inspired by Universal Medicine and the work of Serge Benhayon

209 thoughts on “Being Photographed: to Be Seen, or Not to Be Seen?

  1. “To be or not to be?” played out in front of the camera…and in front of life’, what a truth of a statement this is. Some people can perform in front of a camera and yet some can’t. Both will be in the situation of having to perform, one may force themselves, and one will want to hide.

    Why don’t we want to be truly seen? The camera is no different to being in front of the world. When people see who we are, the magnificence of us, that reflection is powerful to another. It doesn’t mean they have to do or be the same, it just gives them permission that they can be the same too, whether in front of a camera or not. It only takes one to ignite another, and the rest will follow.

  2. Many years ago when I used to have photos taken, they needed to capture me smiling, or at that right angle etc because I thought physically I wasn’t enough. And then I came across a photographer similar to the one you described and, I didn’t want to fully let myself out. They were offering themselves with no judgment etc, but it was I, that was holding back.

    Why do we do this? We’re happy to meet people and behave in what ever manner it is, and when the lens is in front of us, then it’s a whole different story altogether.

    I thought of models who striked their poses, and I wondered whether internally they were screaming to be seen.

    I’ve had recent photos taken, and the photographer captured me in that short time I was with him, with no ra ra-ing. He spoke to me in a tone that settled me and bang, there it was, that gold essence captured by a manner of few words.

    So as much as it is far from perfect, we can let ourselves out and be seen and it felt beautiful when I saw those photos captured when I wanted to be seen.

  3. Camera or not camera, if we behave differently when someone is looking, then this exposes that we are perhaps playing roles and games rather than just being ourselves.

    1. Spot on Henrietta, we are playing roles and games constantly. So what are we going to do about it? Continue? Or take the steps to find ourselves and discover that we are more then what’s in front of us and fall in love with that, then the facade of it all?

  4. Adrienne, this nails it totally: “It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.” – to be oneself is a gift for self and all equally so.

    1. That statement stood out for me too. What is perfect? There’s two versions, one that has images of how it needs to be, and one that has no images and it is perfect just the way you are. I prefer the latter than the former.

  5. When I was a very young child I loved to be photographed – I would say “me, me capture me in a picture” and I could not understand why others were not excited about being seen…It was for me an opportunity to shine and I loved it. But what you have shared here Adrienne, in this blog totally makes sense that if we are not comfortable with being seen, then this can affect how we are with being photographed. And in fact in later years, I did find it more difficult to be me in photos, and I am gradually learning to let these barriers and protections go.

  6. Protection is something I have been choosing to let go of, I likewise never realised how protected I was. I love how Adrienne describes people when they allow themselves to be seen, ‘it was exquisite and powerful to behold – like the full sun coming out from behind cloud cover.’

  7. The camera lens is transparent and when we parent our selves in the most divinely-loving-way we also become trans-parent in our refection and thus no mask is ever needed, as we are open to every aspect of life and share the Love equally.

  8. To be seen or not be seen and how much – this really is a well learned measurement we have developed for ourselves. It is an amazing opportunity to be photographed by someone who would allow us to feel it is safe to let that go, and we would be surprised, and deeply confirmed, to see what gets captured.

  9. You have exposed me Elizabeth, because for years I have hated having my photograph taken! And for years have hated myself.

  10. The more we share who we are, let people see who we are in essence the more we will come to feel the truth that we are all one and the same divine beings, and our innate way of being is to be at one with who we are and with all.

  11. I am one of those people who feel awkward when I am conscious that a camera is pointed at me. But I have also experienced that some photographers have this holding presence that makes it more natural for someone like me to just be, rather than be conscious and worried about how I might look etc. and somehow draws out what feels to be the true essence of the person to be seen and felt in the resulting photograph. It’s quite amazing to feel the difference between those photos and the manufactured and choreographed photos that are all about a visual image.

  12. We are hungry for love, yet we seem to be afraid when it comes to love. Loving yourself, loving others and letting yourself out there in the open to be seen for who you are (love with our imperfections!). But what makes it actually so hard? So uncomfortable at times? What lays underneath that we at times, when it comes down to love, deny or postpone it at all cost.

  13. “When people let themselves go and seemed to say with their whole being, “This is me – here I am,” When we practice reading the energy of a person then there is nowhere to hide as it is all felt.

  14. This blog makes so much sense but it is also very exposing, as I get extremely affected when I am starring down the barrel of the camera lens. I have never liked pictures of myself, I have always thought of myself as quite pretty but then, when I see myself in photos I am always disappointed. I have spent years trying to recreate poses of the few photos I do like of myself and I end up looking like a super weirdo in the process. The ironic thing is that when we try, our true beauty is lost, as our essence just is, it does not need to prove itself.

    1. True Sarah, trying to be something or look a certain way will never work. And I agree with Adrienne ‘It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.’ Well, I have not yet mastered that one and me and being photographed is not yet a really fantastics match although there are now photographers that can capture the joy that’s in me and I do love those pictures as l love the joy.

  15. This is so true and when we are in front of a camera we seem to have a pressure on us for this ‘perfect’ photo which also plays out in life when we are trying or looking for this ‘perfect’ person. It’s great to simply be aware of how tense you may become with the thought or reality of a photo. As we all know it matters little with how you look as people will always have their own opinion and so the only thing we have is how we truly feel. The next time you feel put on the spot with something do your best to allow your body to drop, to settle and know people can choose to see whatever they like and come back to how you feel and from there simple appreciate that you felt that.

  16. When I find myself in front of the camera lens I feel a fragility in myself and I know I am the one who decides how much I allow the world to see me, the more I just let myself be, let the fragility be I start to feel a joy in myself which is lovely to share with the world as there is only one of me!

  17. To me it is the expectations we have been brought up with that makes us tense up when we are asked to show ourselves. When we allow ourselves to align to the expectations of life, for instance how to be with our parents, at school, with sports, at work or any other situation in life we actually do not know anymore who we naturally are because we have lost that natural connection with our inner most. Our inner most knows exactly how to be in any situation in life, so also in front of the camera lens.

  18. I can relate and fully understand this unfortunate reality we have created. I am applying for jobs presently with much opportunity before me – I like this statement “It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.” What I like about this particularly in an interview (and being in front of the camera) is that I felt how in the past I have not presented myself with the transparency that will support me not only in life but in the instance of the job I am applying myself to be in. You are setting forth how you will be next either in the job or how you walk out after the interview into the world. Honesty prevails through presenting and showing the world what you know (how amazing you are) and what you do not know … why hold any of that back.

  19. This is true, it is about letting go of our many veils and be seen in full when having our photos taken, a work in progress for many of us, ‘This is me – here I am, you can look at me, I’ll let you see all of me, there’s nothing here I am holding back or hiding or keeping tucked away’.

  20. We have played this game for so long and it is time to drop it, ‘We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen.’ and instead to allow ourselves to be seen in full.

  21. It is beautiful when there are no reservations or holding back when it comes to having photographs done, and being comfortable in front of a camera is a reflection of how comfortable we are with our own relationship with ourselves.

    1. I love this point Sally – the relationship we have with ourselves is key and it can be confronting to realise that we do not accept ourselves fully or that we hold a criticism or judgement about ourselves. But the sooner we realise this the sooner we can then work on letting it all go and deepening in the quality of relationship with self.

  22. I still feel very awkward in front of a camera. I might try asking myself the question you pose, “how much will you allow of you to be seen?” The fact is I am being seen all the time, but when eyes are focused on me, I get uncomfortable. This is something for me to ponder on.

  23. We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen. I know this too be true having spent most of my life in hiding, hiding my true essence. But happy to say I have outgrown this old need to hide,( believing I would feel safe) and hiding has no place or space in my body or in any area of my life!

  24. Spot on, Adrienne. Stepping in front of a camera is for many on a par with public speaking. How prepared are we to be seen? And what kind of gap exists between how much of ourselves we are prepared to show ‘on occasion’ versus doing so every day? Closing that gap is surely the goal if we are at all interested in letting the world know how glorious we are.

  25. On this question of how much do we let ourselves be seen when on camera or otherwise, I noticed that I have a willingness to be seen but wasn’t then quite sure how to let myself be seen so I would try to go out to the world to show myself (hope this makes sense!). The more I deepen my relationship with myself, the more I understand and feel that to let myself be seen all I need to do is ensure I am feeling my body, for if I am present with myself I am letting myself be seen. The beauty of this is that in staying with myself and not trying to be seen or recognised, I am becoming steadier, more consistent, more at ease within myself and in the world. I’m trying far less then ever and loving the feeling of being solidly in my body.

  26. Standing in front of a camera definitely brings up the judgement’s we hold in relation to how we look and the feelings of being judged by those that will look at the photo. It offers an opportunity to connect to how much we have claimed ourselves, how much we truly hold ourselves as the amazing beings we are.

  27. This is a great capture of the truth is a very relatable way, we all know our relationship with the camera and how much this exposes about us..what we are willing to share with others and the world. It brings awareness to the power of our every reflection. Love it.

  28. So very true Adrienne, a photograph in truth ought to capture the essence of who we are, so as you say… ” It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself”. The photographer also has quite some bearing on this, as his ‘meeting’ of you will either ask and offer you the platform to let yourself out in full, or it will see you in the contraction he or she is also in, and hence you will be more likely to only show the lesser version of yourself, focussing instead on feeling insecure, on your appearance or on your discomfort etc.

  29. A beautiful reflection upon the glory and true beauty that rests within every single one of us, thank-you Adrienne. To hold it back, to veil it and keep ourselves from being seen, is to deny that which we all, in truth are.
    And so claim ourselves, yes, and celebrate all that we are – if we have re-found the great love within, share it without reservation, that others too may find their own inner spark re-ignited…

  30. I like what you have presented here, it’s something beautiful to aspire to, to be all of ourselves in every moment regardless of who we are with or without cameras. It would first of all be an immense gift to ourselves.

  31. Suberb inspiring article. But an interesting question pops up: to be perfect ourselves is the game. But how do we know we are perfectly ourselves when we have not felt that since – if we actually remember – very young?
    Not feeling ourselves can actually feel very normal.

  32. It is very powerful to allow others to see our fragility and still be okay with it, but many times when I am showing my fragility, there is a resistance felt from others. Could this resistance be a resistance to feeling one’s choice to remain transparent and simply honest?

    1. I have also experienced the opposite to be true, when we allow ourselves to be transparent this gives another the permission to show themselves. We are always offering each other reflections and when we choose to let ourselves feel what they highlight we can discover much about ourselves.

  33. “Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves” – beautifully said and so true. And we may like to think we can manipulate images to look a certain way, or be ‘good at’ standing in front of a camera, but that’s exactly what is felt, and we do not like being exposed that we have been lying to the world by holding ourselves back.

  34. “To be seen or not to be seen?” – a great question! I love the simplicity of it – the clarity of the choice we continually have…

  35. Being aware of and honest about the subtle veils that fall between us being all that we are in the world, is where we will discover the power living our fullness, in all its glory. As it is our choice let go of the veils that obscure our light and instead surrender to be at one with the sheer magnificence of our Soul.

  36. Thank you for your brilliant blog Adrienne – you have explained so beautifully what is really going on behind our reluctance to be photographed.

  37. I love what you have offered here Adrienne for like in life, so many people make it about the outer appearance but in truth as you have shared, photography is about so much more. It is without doubt a great marker of how we are with ourselves and how willing we are for the world to see that. A great sharing.

  38. I can relate to this, recently I was helping out with a photo shoot in the background and was asked to go into a photo. I froze, I was happy to be behind the lens but when I was to be seen in front of the camera I became rigid, had thoughts of self doubt and just wanted to hide- it was very exposing. At the time I put it down to not being dressed appropriately for a photo shoot but there was much more to it than that. Thank you for your sharing and the reflection it offers.

  39. I used to hate seeing myself in pictures, and when I look back now I can see the sadness that was in my eyes. Now I see the beauty in my eyes and the freshness and vitality of my face – due to Universal Medicine’s consistency of love and support

  40. With the support of Universal Medicine it has been extremely revealing to transform from a woman who loathed having her photo taken, to one who revels in letting the world see the love I am.

  41. Adrienne for me that is so spot on what you have shared: “Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves.” Facing a camera is the best reflection ever – as well the fotos you will get!

  42. Thank you Adrienne. I realised in some photos that were taken yesterday that I was actually not bringing all of me to the picture. Admittedly I was feeling tired and weary but is this really an excuse to hide the gorgeousness that we are? Allowing that feeling deep within which in total allows for us to shine in our totality so even if it takes a few minutes it’s worth connecting to that totality if we are leaving our mark in a photo for perpetuity.

  43. “We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen.” Yes, and as you say not just in front of the camera. But how are we in front of the camera? Does this reflect how we are in life? As a child I hated having my photo taken and would turn my back on the camera, ruining many a family photo. I was also only thinking about myself at that point. I still find having my photo taken difficult, but as i see the bigger picture I am more able to let go of the ‘its about me’ syndrome, and open up to a wider view.

  44. This applies not only to being in front of the camera but when we are with all our family, friends, colleagues and generally going about our daily routine. How often do we enter a room allowing everyone to fully see us? How often do we work closely with our colleagues at work and allow them to fully see us? How often do we connect to our children, family and let them see us? The camera is the physical example. Could it be possible that our every moment is an internal camera still taking all those shots?

  45. ” It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.” It is interesting that when we feel self conscious in front of a camera we are not appreciating who we are and perhaps are aware that we are so much more than we choose to share with the world.

  46. We choose how much of ourselves we allow ourselves to be seen and this is very much how we live and play out our lives in hiding with all we feel and learn to be as we grow up .This becomes a constant and normal way to live but since knowing Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine we learn to be open and show who we really are and this is the greatest gift in the world we can give ourselves and the world every minute joyfully.

  47. Thank you Adrienne for the great insight you share here about what being in front of a camera can bring up for us – I know this is my experience too! It is a great opportunity to get to know ourselves deeper and see how we react to being seen…

  48. The simplicity and wisdom shared in this blog is very inspiring, I love it when people can allow themselves to be totally transparent in a photo – it can be deeply healing and supportive for all who see this.

  49. Thank you Adrienne, this is a great reflection and marker for me to observe how much I allow myself to be seen in any given situation.

  50. Another great blog Adrienne- and a great reminder for me today, to not dull myself down as I take myself out into the world but allow the grace and care that I have to be seen and felt by others as this is something that I have held back in case it is not accepted or rejected.

  51. Yes I can relate to how much am I allowing to be seen. There is a guardedness and a hesitation to be photographed I can feel when a photo is to be taken of me. But at the same time a deep longing to be seen too. Of wanting to be connected to and with.

  52. Another great observation Adrienne. Love it as it exposes so much about our self. I know for me I have always loved taking photos and disliked having my photo taken. It is just like being unable to speak up in a crowd or a big gathering. I can see that it is a control issue, all measuring is control. Thank you for this it is quite the realisation for me. . . very much appreciated.

  53. Very true Adrienne – point a camera towards most people and they immediately want to present a certain image. The social media has encouraged this behaviour as people frequently post pictures of themselves and others but only to show a certain side of themselves as if to try and prove something. Yet the photos that draw me back time and time again are the ones where the veil is down and I can feel the pull of the person, almost as if their faces are a magnet – and it’s beautiful, regardless of anything else.

  54. To be “perfectly yourself” is the perfect way to be. I love how having our photo taken can clearly show us whether we are being perfectly ourselves or not or are we trying to be someone else in our daily living with others.

  55. ‘It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.’ An awesome quote and one that would immediately change the tone and feel of Instagram and Facebook were it universally applied.

  56. ‘Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves.’ This is so revealing of the fact that it is not just about letting people in but how our relationship with ourselves is crucial to what we allow to be seen. I have spent a lifetime avoiding the camera’s gaze but now that I am feeling much more comfortable in my own skin I am more willing to let others in and be photographed.

  57. So beautiful to read Adrienne, and very timely as I am about to have my photograph taken , I am feeling much more comfortable in my own skin these days and will ponder on your words, how much am I willing to let out and let people see. Thank you.

  58. It’s a revelation to look back over even recent photos and see just how much measuring has been captured in that millisecond shutter motion. I can see it in the muscles in my face and in my posture. Poised for criticism, aiming to deliver ‘that look’ – the one that usually gets me through, to a ‘this is a good one’. But the camera as we know, never lies – and when we extend the fact of our measuring to understand that it’s merely a reflection of how we’re playing out our lives more generally, then it’s time for a serious rethink. Being bold enough to ditch the on/off button and just let the sun come out.

  59. I find being in front of the camera a torture of sorts but your reminder to be “perfectly yourself” is a great piece of advice.

  60. An awesome blog to re-visit Adrienne as I have just recently had some photos take of myself and I can often feel I am hiding and not willing to show my true beauty, so I can resort to smiling brightly which often is masking the truth of who I am. I love this line and shall take it into my day -‘It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself. ‘ – Such a beautiful reminder thank you.

  61. This is such a relevant sharing for me as last week I was at a photo shoot and painfully realise just how much I hold back and hide. What you have written Adrienne is so true. Thank you for highlighting what happens when we face a camera; I have much to ponder!

  62. If we allow ourselves to be seen during a photo shooting we receive such a beautiful reflection and confirmation of our own true inner beauty, when we look at our own photos. How healing to give ourselves appreciation and confirmation for our own inner beauty.

  63. I just had a photo shooting last week and first i felt a bit hesitant but than there was movement i could do looking away and than look up in the camera. I started enjoying it so much just playing and being joyful me and to show myself as i am. This was such a great experience. Before i always thought i have to have a full smile when somebody took picture, wanting to look good or show myself from my best side.
    This time i did not want anything just being. I have some amazing picture where i don’t smile and just look so openly in the camera, amazing. Honoring my own transformation as i was very shy some years ago looking in the camera.

  64. Very timely subject for me. I recently had my photo taken and I felt rather uncomfortable. It was very exposing to feel the way I did. “It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself” – precisely; I could feel that there was a yearning to be seen in full, yet at the same time I held back not being able to trust in full, fearing rejection and judgment.

  65. And there is a definitely a difference between being polished and professional, vs just being real… really you. Everyone can feel the difference, and of course the camera does not lie either.

  66. You’re so right about the parallel between how we measure just how much of our true selves we show in front of the camera and again in front of life. The camera just magnifies the issue in one snapshot moment, but we can hold it like that through life for weeks, months, years. A life of being measured, giving out only so much rather than being seen for all we are.

  67. We learn from young to smile when we are being photographed or sit straight or ordening our clothes instead of being ourselves. Your blog Adrienne has made me aware of this measuring which I still do when I meet people, especially for a first time, to make a ‘good’ impression so they will like me and then I can slowly drop the guards. A pattern from young that I can let go of and being myself while being photographed will support this process of letting go and being me from the beginning.

  68. I was lost and didn’t know who I was. I had totally disregarded my body for as long as I could remember, my health was poor and my self esteem on a scale of 1 to 10 was at two and I was slowly commiting suicide by continuing to smoke tobacco.
    Five years later after being introduced to Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine and many people in the student body and by attending presentations and courses I slowly realised that I could start making new choices. I learnt that I could smoke myself to death or be a son of god and shine my light to the world.

  69. I love what you share, Adrienne, about no ‘on / off switch’, about consistency. I am going to be asking myself this question as I go through the day – “If someone was taking a photo of me right now, am I shining all of me?”

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