The Camera Adds 10 Pounds: How We See Ourselves

Since this blog’s inception, I haven’t actually written anything about linguistics, but I actually really enjoyed writing about things that I felt, which leads into today’s entry perfectly as a marriage of the two.

I think we’ve all heard the adage that “the camera adds 10 pounds” at some point in our lives, likely at the last moment we wanted to hear it. I wanted to look into the origins of this phrase, and found some research by Michael Richmond, a physics professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It describes the physical phenomena of eyes and how they see objects and perceive depth. The effect of this based on typical photo conditions, is that the image becomes wider and thus “fatter.” My curiosity first and foremost is to find out whether this was a real effect of images. I can imagine modern cameras even those on phones have programs in place to alter images taken by them to the extent they can to mimic what a pair of eyes would see in real life, but I think the disconnect between our expectations of ourselves and an objective image causes some disappointment.

I can only speculate if those feelings were what drove this adage to spread more rapidly. Maybe for some it was a manifestation of their own thoughts made physical. Personally, I have not taken pictures of myself in many years, and the ones that do exist are only in other’s phones. I like to believe that I prefer to experience things rather than document them (*I write very haughtily*), but I can’t deny there might be some component of self-doubt that stops me from doing so. Maybe I don’t want to see what others see, and I’d rather just let my own of myself remain intact. Obviously, there is some level of delusion there, but I think the real takeaway from this is that you don’t have full control over other’s perceptions of yourself, and that’s just fine. We define our own outlook on ourselves and in the end that should really be the only one that matters.


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