I think some of our current fascination with youth and beauty stems from a ready access to images of ourselves. Mirrors of polished metal have been around since ancient times. Metal-backed glass mirrors have been around since the middle ages but they were expensive items of the rich until the 19th century when manufacturing techniques improved. However, as we all know, the image in the mirror never quite matches the one on film.
Before Kodak launched the Brownie camera in 1900, the vast majority of people throughout history have not had ready access to pictures of themselves. I think the invention of the photograph radically changed how we view ourselves. At no time in history have we been able to instantaneously see ourselves from every angle, scrutinizing our looks, the size of our bodies or ruining the mental image of ourselves. Only just a few years ago we had to wait until the film was developed before we realized how many bad pictures of us were now printed for posterity. Don’t even get me started on home video cameras. Now we have phones and digital cameras with screens, many of which contain a slimming mode. Sucking it in may be a thing of the past.
Which makes me to wonder what people thought when they saw a drawing or painting of themselves. Did people look at their portraits and exclaim, “Is that what I really look like?!” Did they turn to their spouse and say “does that silhouette makes me look fat” ? I know some artists improved the features of their paying subjects, but did this really help the sitter? One wonders how many tense moments there were when everyone else saw the painting and had to pretend it was an accurate likeness. Can you imagine the awkward silence?
If you want to take a trip to the past, check out my books. They are set in the past. www.Georgie-Lee.com