Dowager Countess of My Own Castle

"First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I'm living in an H.G. Wells novel."

Like a lot of folks, I’ve developed a fondness for Downton Abbey and am enduring the self-imposed suspense of watching a series from week to week rather than binging at season end. While I once regarded Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess as a killjoy reluctant to change with the times, I have come to completely sympathize with this character that cannot fathom the modern mindset, especially toward photographs.

* Duck faces. To my mind, the purpose of a photo is to capture a moment in time but in the most flattering way possible. Duck faces are never flattering. Why anyone wants to purse her lips in casual photos is beyond me.

* Sexting, anatomical selfies. These confound me for so many reasons. There was a time when, as my grandmother would say, “Showing your nakedness” was shameful. We can acknowledge that there’s no longer such a thing as shame, so let’s consider its corollary, dignity. Do you really want your parts out in circulation for anyone to study? And why would you think yours are so special in the first place? (Does anyone remember their speech teacher telling them to just imagine the audience in their underwear? So quaint.)

* Multiple daily photos. I wonder if the Future You will really care to review the 6 photos you’re taking each day as Current You. As for myself, I don’t even pull out the wedding album on my anniversary. I have a couple of great portraits to signify the day and that’s pretty sufficient. The truth is, I am too busy doing today to spend a lot of time remembering yesterday. I do love a carefully cultivated photo book, but as for having multiple shots of the same quotidian moments (lunch again!), I imagine they will be as dull in 10 years as they are right now.

* Artsy wedding, engagement, and pregnancy photos. Admittedly, I have seen some captivating shots in magazines and on Pinterest, always of strangers. But photos of people I actually know standing in a creek wearing a wedding gown or kissing in front of an unnaturally indigo blue barn just strike me as odd, even ridiculous. I like to recognize the people as well as the purpose of the announcement (save the date, new baby, etc.). If I want to see a person with a severe countenance doing something curious, I have a subscription to Vogue already.

* Semi-professional birth photos and video. To my mind, the advent of reality TV birthing marked the end of a certain era of civility. I get that it’s only natural, it’s been so from the beginning of humankind, it’s been made into a hospitalized event that has lost its soul. However, in my opinion, giving birth is not a spectator sport, no matter how it’s done. I can’t imagine inviting someone else into the birthing suite to capture photos. Isn’t that sort of an intimate, private moment? Except for the 15 random medical attendants cycling though?

* Pregnant belly photos. Those last weeks of pregnancy were filled with anticipation and wonder – wonder at how much bigger I could possibly get. Just like any other physical curiosity (They found a cyst the size of a grapefruit? This is your face after the air bag exploded?), the pregnant belly is fascinating but a questionable subject for portraiture and public display.

Of course, what do I know? By today’s standards of sharing, I’m practically advocating for a return to formal portraits and confinement. But I think Countess Violet would agree, there’s something to be said for keeping a few things to yourself.