Why do I hate photographs of myself, you ask?
Because they strike me as being too deterministic a form of evidence for my tentative, even circumstantial presence. Records of a permanence I neither feel nor aspire to. That I was in such a place and at such a time means something, the photograph suggests, and this is almost never true. My being there is usually a matter of coincidence and serendipity, sometimes it is the result of casual choice - all other narrative is convenient, but false.
Because I'm tired of the way people are always smiling in them. Or trying to. As though life were inherently happy. As though this were our 'true' face. Or as though the fact of having this role of the lens' object thrust upon us, of being forced to step out of the stream of our life and assume this fake pose, were pleasurable in itself and "cause enough / for calling up that spot of joy". Who exactly do we hope to fooll by this? Personally, I'd rather see pictures of people crying. If you're trying to figure out how beautiful someone is, that's the right way to do it. What was it Emily Dickinson said? "I like a look of agony / Because I know it's true / Men do not sham convulsion / Nor simulate a throe".
Because photographs limit and circumscribe. Because they are an insult to both memory and imagination, as though either needed the help of some piece of printed paper to perform its office.
Because they will insist, like spoilt children, on their own version of things, as though accuracy really mattered in something so trivial as an individual's life.
Because every photograph is a lie. When you see a group photograph you think: the people in it are together, they are having a shared experience. But this is not true, because each person experiences the moment in his own way. Ask the people in the photograph about the day it was taken and each one of them will have a completely different set of memories, and none of their versions will be exactly right. The photograph is simply a brazen attempt to hide this lack of connection, to put a brave face on the irreconcilable differences between us. A desperate attempt to pretend that we have something in common.
Because photographs are two-dimensional. Any real record of the past would have to include so much more. Not that one instant only, but the moments that came before and after. And other things. The smell of the freshly mown grass, the distant noise of the traffic, the feel of the sunlight on your skin. What person A was thinking about, what person B was feeling. The warmth of these bodies - their heartbeat, their breathing.
Because photographs are a claim: one that I have no wish to make. They are flags planted in history, an attempt to claim a certain handsbreadth of the past for our own. As though it was possible for the past to belong to someone. As though such ownership were valuable.
Because photographs are symptoms of the worst nostalgia of all - the nostalgia for memory. Where does it come from, this desire of ours to remember and be remembered? Why do we want to be unforgettable? What good will it do us to think or know that people will remember us even when we are no longer with them? And do we really believe that this picture, this foolish little image, will do the trick for us, grant us immortality?
People are always showing me old photographs of someone I used to know (or someone they claim I used to know) and saying "Remember him?" I usually don't. And the reason I usually don't is because in all likelihood the person either bored me or irritated me, or, at best, I never got to know anything about him except maybe his name and so there's really nothing to 'remember'. It annoys me to know that I'm expected to remember such people, and it frightens me to think that they might still remember me (or rather, that they remember the version of me as I was then; no, actually, the version of me as I was then that they subjectively saw). The few people / places / times I do remember I need no photographs to remind me of. In general I find the 'if you can't remember it, forget it' rule a good one. That way the memories I keep are the ones I truly value. Remembering isn't cheap, and it shouldn't be.
And even if you want to cling to some memories (and which of us doesn't) why make them public? Why create this common vision of the past, instead of keeping your own unique and inaccessible version of yourself? I hate photographs of me because they deprive me of the right to control my own memories. You know how in the old days when a king died they buried him along with his household and all his worldly goods. That's what I'd like done with all my photographs - bury / burn them with me when I die so that afterwards there's no proof left of the fact that I ever existed. 
I hate photographs because they assume that the purpose of life is to establish your presence in the world. Personally, I'd rather establish my absence. After all, if people notice you're not there, it means they miss you.
I hate photographs because they make me look involved, and therefore culpable. Because every time I look at a photograph of me I know that some day, in some way or the other, someone will use it against me.
"Preserve your memories / they're all that's left you" Simon & Garfunkel sing. Can you imagine what that would be like? To have got so old, so tired, that you could neither see nor imagine any future, that you no longer cared about the present and couldn't remember the past with any clarity; that you had no inner resources left and had to turn to these tiny coloured bits of paper to keep you going. And even then all you'd have would be a lot of fake images from times you probably regret and certainly can't change. Isn't that a terrible thought?
To hell with bookends. Personally, I'd rather fall off the shelf.
P.S. Of course, the real reason I hate photographs is because they make me look fat. But you don't think I'm going to admit to that, do you?
 Besides, if there is an afterlife, I'd like to show them around - just think what fun it would be to meet up in hell with the people who forced you to look at their baby pictures, and spend all of eternity showing them the 1,350 pics of your trip to the Smoky Mountains
Update: Here's Margaret Atwood, from her new collection, Tent:
No more photos. Surely there are enough. No more shadows of myself thrown by light onto pieces of paper, onto squares of plastic. No more of my eyes, mouths, noses, moods, bad angles. No more yawns, teeth, wrinkles. I suffer from my own multiplicity. Two or three images would have been enough, or four, or five. That would had allowed a firm idea: This is she. As it is, I'm watery, I ripple, from moment to moment I dissolve into my other selves. Turn the page: you, looking, are newly confused. You know me too well to know me. Or not too well: too much.
Categories: Personal, Universe, Rant