My face on the wall
February 3, 2012 1:12 PM   Subscribe

I recently received an award from my supervisor and the management team (along with four other people). I'm very happy about this, but not so much the aspect of them asking me to put my photo up on the wall in our office. How do I politely tell them that I am awkward and not photogenic when it comes to pictures that are not candid? How do I also tell them that I would prefer not to have my photo up on the wall?

I really don't want my photo taken. I definitely don't consider myself ugly (I don't view people in that way), but I am not someone that is photogenic when it comes to posing for the camera. I would really prefer not to take this photograph, but I don't want to offend anyone or come across as rude for this.

The problem is that other people that have received these awards have always had their photos up and have never told the management team not to put a photo of themselves up on the wall. I feel like if I say this then it will be evident that I don't want my photo up there for whatever reason.

Part of me wants to just take the photo despite how awkward it will look because my supervisor nominated me for this most improved award. Our work group has a familial vibe to it and I know that they would be upset if I declined the photo. But, I don't want my photo up there on the wall near the main entrance, I especially don't want my photo up there for a long period of time which will happen until the new recipients receive their awards.

So, how do I deal with this situation in a polite way? Is there a way to say this in a light-hearted tone without sending like I lack self confidence or dislike the way that I look?
posted by livinglearning to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just take the photograph. There's no way to sound good while declining this tradition.
posted by ellF at 1:17 PM on February 3, 2012 [18 favorites]

Liking the way you look in pictures recipe:

1 digital camera
1 mirror
1 set of groovy clothing


Take a bunch of pictures of yourself wearing some groovy clothing. Find the pose you like from all the candid shots to which you've been comparing yourself. Then try and emulate that pose when you are getting your picture taken. Wear the same clothes.

Serves one.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tell your boss, "I know this is a thing, but I really hate all photos of myself. Would it be really horrible if we just put up my name?"

And if your boss says, "Nope, we're going to do it anyway," then smile graciously and do what oceanjesse says. Digital pictures are free -- make them take a bunch and pick your favorite.
posted by Etrigan at 1:23 PM on February 3, 2012

depending on the sort of environment your workplace has, i would take oceanjesse's "groovy clothing" and dress up in something ridiculous or silly, ie pirate garb, sparkly sequined top, a top hat, etc.
posted by fuzzysoft at 1:26 PM on February 3, 2012

As someone who absolutely hates photos of herself, I can tell you from experience that you are much better off just having the photo taken without comment. Do it graciously the way it's usually done and all attention will be off you within a week, and the picture will come down with the next round of awards. Raise a stink and you will *always* be known as the unprofessional non-team-player who made a big deal about a picture.
posted by headnsouth at 1:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [24 favorites]

Yeah, I think this is one of those things you're just going to have to agree to.
posted by mleigh at 1:34 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason you can't have a picture taken in advance and give it to your boss for the wall? At least then you'll have a lot more control over what it looks like.
posted by cairdeas at 1:36 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Any photo that has been up for more than three days is no longer 'seen'. It'll become part of the background and no one will even notice it.

Do it and then forget it, just like everyone else will.
posted by unixrat at 1:38 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you ask to take it next to some big thing, like the company sign, or the view of the office, or the whole building? Then you'd be quite small and it doesn't matter if you're photogenic. If body shape is a concern, find a desk and/or have the photo taken while you're sitting down.
posted by bread-eater at 1:41 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You seem to be saying that it is formally "posed" photos you don't like. Can't you just find an already-existing candid photo of yourself that you don't mind and ask the boss if it would be o.k. to use that? I really can't imagine anyone saying "no, you MUST have a formally posed photograph taken!"
posted by yoink at 1:44 PM on February 3, 2012

If there is a way to do this, I have not discovered it. I am not photogenic. I hate having my picture taken. In the past, any time I have tried to get out of having my picture posted the situation has turned into quicksand and I end up looking high-maintenance and foolish. There is now a picture of me in the hall (along with pictures of everyone else). I prefer not to look at it because it doesn't match how I see myself, but everyone else seems to think it's a pretty good picture of me. At first, it jumped out at me every time I walked past, now I don't really think about it anymore.
posted by mimo at 1:49 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

No one really looks at those pictures. When it goes up, don't say anything about it, no "oh, I don't like the way I look," don't point out any perceived flaws, don't complain about how you're soooooo unphotogenic (you probably aren't any more or less photogenic than anyone else). But if you make a big deal out it, so will everyone else. Which is worse, having your picture taken, or having everybody talk about how you didn't want your picture taken? That's when everybody will start looking at you and wondering what's so wrong with you that you didn't want your picture taken.
posted by sageleaf at 1:52 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Several years ago, my coworker and I had a series of pictures taken for a local newsweekly's "Sexiest Staffs!" issue. In them, I'm holding up an open magazine while only wearing a bra and a skirt.

Personally, I was mortified when the photo was originally published. I thought the photographer chose a shot with too much pudge, and if I had been aware of my slight waist muffining, I would have loosened my skirt and smoothed the silhouette. In many ways, having a full-page photograph of my belly circulate throughout the entire metropolitan area was one of my worst nightmares.

Turns out, everybody loved it. I had people come up to me in stores and compliment me on it, and a bunch of my friends hung it up in their houses. My work framed it, had me sign it, and hung it in the breakroom.

It was awesome. Something I could barely look at when I first saw it, turned into a thing that made me truly realize how critical I was of my own appearance, and how much it didn't matter.

Your circumstance is not very similar, but if I got over mine (admittedly, with support and encouragement), then perhaps you will learn to tolerate yours, judge yourself less harshly, and realize that there is a weird photo brain magic in those photographs where you've been replaced by a grotesque waterbeast and other people see absolutely nothing wrong.
posted by redsparkler at 2:08 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read this a few weeks ago. My latest ID is gorgeous (for an ID).

Say cheese, or see if you can bring your own photo, as suggested above.
posted by cyndigo at 3:12 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

For a few years I worked at a studio whose logo was a silhouette of the founder's head, and all employee business cards had profile silhouettes of each employee's head in the same style. I had recently gained 50 pounds, seemingly half of it in my neck, and was super embarrassed about my cards at first, but I eventually got over it. I look like the love child of Patton Oswalt and Rachel Maddow, and I figure if they can make it work, so can I.

When you or I look at photos of ourselves we see our flaws, but when others look at them, they typically just see an icon that represents us*

*with the exception of aggresively insecure people and portraitists.
posted by balistic at 3:14 PM on February 3, 2012

I don't think you should have to be in an uncomfortable situation, especially when they want to do something nice for you. I also refuse photo-taking for the same reason. Hearing that I should just suck it up, or worse having people turn it into a snap-her-photo-while-she-protests game is a horror.

"I really appreciate this award, and I just love it here. This is a tremendous honor, and I'm really grateful. Everyone has their quirks and phobias, and here's mine: I cannot stand to have my photo taken and posted in public places. I hope you understand. Thank you again for recognizing my work."

Put the refusal between sentences about how happy you are to get the award. Be firm, confident that they don't want to make things bad for you, and don't over-explain.
posted by Houstonian at 5:41 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I empathize. I despise the way I look in pictures, too. But I think you're just going to have to grit your teeth and do it.

If it makes you feel any better, at my last job, there ended up being a picture of me in the lobby for several months and I hated it at first. But the more I had to look at it, the more it grew on me until I almost thought I looked okay in the picture. And then it was gone and I never thought about it again until now.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2012

I just cleaned out some boxes that had been gathering dust for three decades, and in them were some pictures taken of me in my twenties. I clearly remember hating them at the time - hair wasn't right, bad angle for the neck, whatever. Now I look at them and think, "What the hell was I thinking?. It's a great picture."

Do the digital thing and take twenty shots and choose from among them. Think of yourself as being photographed for a product placement ad for the company, and give it your best "Vitameatavegamin" spiel while they take the photos. Do the forties thing and look up and off into the middle distance instead of into the camera.

You'll end up with an 8x10 that will be perfect to send out to the fans. Thirty years from now you'll be glad to have it.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 11:12 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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