Monday, 11 January 2016

2015: A Year in Bad Portraits

It's that time of year again.

Time for my - now annual - January detox. 

Not the kind of detox that encourages you to make smoothies from unholy combinations of fruit and veg, nor the kind that gets you interrogating your affection for each and every item in your home/wardrobe before you throw it all in a bin bag ... no ... 

This detox (which you're welcome to join in with, but which experience tells me you probably won't) is one that purges the system of any build up of self importance.  ... and tends to entertain people at the same time. [A combination which is pretty much my business plan for the next 10 years]. 

To illustrate ... these are some of the best photos taken of me during 2015; photos I've used as profile pictures or generally shared across social media:
Notice how they're all carefully posed and well lit. Notice how I'm wearing make-up and having a good hair day. Notice how I look like I have a good rapport with the photographer*.

[*I do. They're all selfies]. 

Well, this post, this detox, is the antidote to all that careful image curation.
  • It's a 'factory reset' for my ego;
  • a release valve for my contrary nature that says "You know those photos you've avoided showing anyone all year? Yeah those. You should share them you know? All together. In one post. For laughs."; 
  • In fact it's another Year in Bad Portraits ... 

[You can find previous delights here from 2014 and 2013 and here is the article I wrote for Marie Claire all about the project.]

For some reason I can't find any Bad Portraits for the first 2 months of 2015; not that I'm bragging. 

Rather than gliding through January and February looking fabulously photogenic, it's far more likely that it was winter and I probably didn't go any where worth taking photos. Or, if I did it was probably just too dark to make me out in the shot. And so my Year in Bad Portraits begins in earnest in March.

March 2015:
Taken on a weekend away with friends, during an inexplicable game of catch, this pose is called:

"I'm really not the sporty type but I'm hiding it well ... aren't I?"

April 2015:
If you've seen my previous Bad Portrait post, from 2014 and 2013, you'll know that James likes to grab, how shall I put it - candid - shots of me while I'm eating. This pose is called: 

"You're doing that thing again aren't you?"
He does this mainly because he knows that arguing with him about taking a photo of me with my mouthful would involve me talking with my mouthful ... which will inevitably lead to a 'better' shot.

That kind of  'better' shot usually involves the pose ...

'Is the food just going in or is it just about to come out? You decide' 

May 2015:
May leads us into a special month for Bad Portraits starting with the one that I used as my logo for this year. 

This was meant to be a quick shot of my hair, from above, that I could use on social media as a quick "Ooh, look, I'm dyeing my hair 'Darkest Intense Violet' status update. It was never intended to say: 

"There is no escape. I will come for you while you sleep".
It's only appropriate that I look evil here as both it, and the next Bad Portrait, both capture the weird pigmentation on my forehead that I refer to as my 'Dark Mark'*. 

* For the uninitiated [where have you been all Harry Potter's life?] Lord Voldemort brands his followers with the Dark Mark which burns and throbs to alert them to his return.

Can you see it, above my left eye? How about in this photo, which I'm titling:

"No one in this house has any recollection whatsoever as to why this photo was taken or who took it. Especially as #NoMakeUpSelfies are so 2014"
Yup. That's me. Straight from the shower; with neither a trace of make-up or self-awareness to preserve my dignity.

For the record: my Dark Mark seems to have faded in recent months. Either because it [a] darkens in sunlight and I've been good at using my SPF cream OR ... [b] I'm just not so Slytherin these days. 

Moving on ... although we're still in May [and we're still debating whether or not the food's going in .... or coming out ...]
Trust me. It's going in. I don't mess around with a Robineau passion fruit, lime, and coconut tart.

You can catch up on the picnic we had on the Grimpen Mire* in this post from last year. *Kind of.
This Bad Portrait, from James's birthday, was followed swiftly upon by this next one from our May anniversary. 

You know how it is ... you think you're taking a selfie which captures your feelings after 20+ years together ... when what you're actually getting is: 

"Stunned couple who've just survived a natural disaster":
Which, in itself, is not a terrible definition of a long term relationship ...

Let's stay in May and, while we're on the subject of relationships ...

Having James as my own personal paparazzo can have its advantages. For one thing, it means I often have a good supply of photos of myself that I can use to illustrate blog posts. So, yes, sometimes he takes really useful, memory-preserving shots of me ... but equally ...

... he might also sneak up while I'm in the vulnerable position of blow-drying my mountain of hair and capture a whole collection of Bad Portraits like this one... 
which I'm calling ...

"I bet this never happens to Beyonce"
"Or this!!!" Because, as a bonus, as if the Cousin Itt-like Bad Portrait of me isn't enough, here's the added extra of a glimpse of our undies drying on a radiator in the background:
Bad Portrait
I'm not saying the two are connected but, come to think of it, it was only a few weeks after this that I decided to have my hair chopped off for summer ... as illustrated by the next set of  charming portraits.

July: [another bumper month for Bad Portraits which tend to increase with the temperature and the likelihood of me going out].

What does this photo say to you? "I'm on holiday"? "I have new, carefree, hair"? "I'm having a lovely lunch in a favourite cafe"? OR ...

"I always knew the angels and/or Mothership would come for me eventually"? 
Insert that five note thingy from Close Encounters of the Third Kind here.

And here we go again with the foodie portraits ...
And this one sees the return of a favourite pose from my 2013 round-up ...

Here's another instance of 'the anxious guinea pig': 
Then, after eating that lavender scone [at Yorkshire Lavender] a photo happened in which not only is there some charming 'bunching' going on around my groin area ... but I also look wonderfully wonky;
  • like someone very drunk trying very hard to walk in a straight line;
  • like someone battling a head wind;
  • like someone walking an invisible dog...
[Which, funnily enough is just how I like my dogs].

August 2015:
After painstakingly planning my wardrobe for a 3 day London trip in August I intended to carefully photograph each outfit to document them here on my blog. Which I never did. Partly because I was just to busy enjoying the break to bother getting good shots of my clothes and partly because there were no really good photos of me wearing them [remember: you're not allowed to call me vain while I'm sharing my Bad Portraits with you]. 

The first attempt to get a decent shot pretty much set the tone for the remaining efforts, because surely the only reaction I'd have got from this shot would be ... 

"Who cares about how you styled that vintage shirt ... when exactly was it that you turned into a cat / alien?"
Here's a closer look:
Probably just a trick of the camera; my eyes must have moved before the aperture closed leaving my pupils looking like this. Probably. [Or maybe that's just what happens to me when I go to London ...].

Something that was definitely due to being in the metropolis was this next pose, titled:

"Look, I've been travelling all day, and now it's less than 24 hours to Hamlet [first mention in 2016!] and I'm in an expensive restaurant overlooking the Thames hoping dearly that I don't look out of place. This is me looking relaxed. OK?" 
Cut to 24 hours later where there were my ...

"You mean I'm in the same building as Benedict Cumberbatch?" poses:
Is it just me or can you hear my shoulders tensing, jaw clenching and teeth grinding from where you are? 

November 2015:
This was the month I reinstated the 'tortoise face' pose:
The first instance of tortoise-face occurred at the end of 2013's Bad Portraits ... and it's a good  [by which I mean bad] one.

And we're now almost up-to-date ... but I can't leave without sharing some festive Bad Portraits ...

December 2015:
I'm calling this one:
"Well this won't be next year's Christmas card."
With the sub-title: "Nope, not drunk".

And finally ... I really, really, wanted to get a nice photo of my Christmas day outfit. I can't tell you how much I adored wearing my big swishy 50s style skirt and truly hoped the photos would capture how good I felt.

And yet ...

... while I was feeling all Christian Dior 'New Look' chic ... it turns out I looked more like I'd just spotted something strange underneath a nearby car:

But hey ... there are always other days, other skirts, and plenty more room on the memory card for more portraits!  

Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones. 

Because from that manure some of the best stories and memories sprout! 


Want to share a photo of your own? Great! But I'll warn you now ... it'll probably be just you and me!
I've extended the same invitation for the last two years now ... and nobody's taken me up on it ... yet. 

And I get it. Not everyone is as misguided as me, or keen to do anything to make others laugh, and - naturally - not everyone saves their bad photos. Trust me, I too would be hovering over that Delete button if I hadn't created the Bad Portrait project for myself; now all bad shots are 'material' for my yearly round-up!

But, if by some chance you do join me in sharing a bad portrait ... 

#BadPortraits: THE RULES 
(yes, there are rules.)

  • Only share a photo of yourself
  • Goodness knows I have some ropey shots of friends and family from 2015 .... but it's not my place to share them. 
  • However ... just because you're free to share any photo of yourself, it doesn't mean you should. 
  • Only share photos of yourself that you can freely laugh at. 
  • This is a project all about being in on and sharing the joke; setting yourself free from the pressures to present an idealised lifestyle. 
  • It is not in any way meant to encourage 'shaming' in any form. 
  • Go gently on yourself - if the photo of yourself doesn't make you giggle ... don't share it. 
Don't want to share a photo? [I don't blame you] ... 

Join the #BadPortraits discussion instead.

Maybe you just want to chat about the project? Maybe you're thinking about joining in this year and want some tips?  Whatever it is I'm all ears [and awkward poses] and here's how you can get in touch:
You can visit my earlier Bad Portraits by clicking the images below, as for me ... I'm off to practice some new poses for 2016 in the mirror. 
Julie :-)


  1. Thank you so much for this. Your pictures and (especially) the words that accompanied them made me howl with laughter over my coffee. *fistbump*

  2. So funny! I love your alien look... And your gorgeous vintage shirt! Happy New Year, Jo x

  3. Totally love! Fabulous round up of a year in weird photos :) Just brilliant! :)

  4. Actually I think a few of these are really nice pics! The Dior one and the ascension one!
    And congrats on 20+ years :-)

  5. Fab! I shared a few very bad ones on FB last year which sparked some comments, I am 50 this year, so I am sure there will be plenty knocking around from the last half century.

  6. Almost every one of my Me On Monday pictures is a photo which wouldn't have seen the light of day any other way. I have about two pictures I actually like and those are the ones you will see over and over again..

    I think some of these are really cute!

  7. Oh Julie, I do love your blog! I chuckled away the whole time I was reading it. I delete any poor photos of me ORrip them up ( in a cross manner). I have lots of photos taken by 'himself' where I appear to have a building/fountain growing out of my head. It never gets lame for him but I now check before I allow my camera to wander into his hands. Other delights have been those photos taken by 'friends' where I look sort of strange/needy or just plain weird! Maybe I have an unreal idea of how I look!

  8. Julie, you're *very* lovely. Thanks for sharing (again) and totally making my day. x

  9. So funny Julie, but you still always look lovely.

    As for hair dye marks, put vaseline around your face and neck. And in my case shoulders.. then the dye will go on that and wash off when you are done.

  10. I think you look lovely in your no-make up selfie, Julie! I'd be as pleased as punch if I looked as young and fresh-faced as you do in it. Not that I have any this-is-the-unvarnished-me photos, as I am rigorous in deleting anything I don't like. So you have my unbound admiration :). Raising a glass to you!

  11. your bad photos are so much better than my bad photos. even my good photos look bad... thanks for a smile on a day when we lost the Bowie.

  12. Happy New Year Julie. You know your food eating photos are so much more elegant than mine would be!

  13. Fantastic! The cat's eye photo is slightly unnerving but they all made me smile. I do like the invisible dog title too! I'm not brave enough to join in , any dodgy pictures (of which there are many) get deleted immediately.

  14. I love your Christmas Day outfit, it's gorgeous. The catseye/alien pic is a little alarming along with the serial killer one, but the rest are mostly cute, I think. As for me, I'll stick with the unholy combinations of fruit and veg. I'm getting ever so slightly addicted to my afternoon smoothies.

  15. What an post?!! I don't keep bad portraits. They go straight into that delete bin.....getting old enough without those bags showing up anywhere but on my arms from shopping! But thanks for a giggle through 2015 :) Especially the Voldemort thing. Too funny!!!

  16. These made me laugh so hard! I especially love the Beyonce reference.


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