The Fake History of the Mirror Pic

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            George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, was a man who loved two things: photography and beards.  The former is what made him and his company countless millions, but the latter is an important factor in creating the most dreaded of all self-portrayal techniques- the mirror pic. 


            Forever, men have wanted that what they cannot have. Hannibal wanted Rome, Freud wanted his mother, and Sauron wanted the one ring to rule them all. George Eastman was no different than these three men -outside of battle elephants, impossible to prove psychological theories, and thousands of orc soldiers- for he could not grow a beard.  How did Eastman get his fix for facial hair?  He became the creator and judge of America’s first official beard growing competition.  The entry method?  The mirror pic.


            The mirror pic’s beginnings were indeed humble.  From all over, men snapped photos of themselves with their unique beards and accompanying mustaches.  Eastman received these photos and found satisfaction and acceptance of his beardless appearance.  Thumbing through the entries he found the men, their beards, and their giant cameras a triumph in the blending of human ingenuity and American masculinity.  However, he would never know what domino effect he would create, for many of the ramifications of this beard contest would not be felt until many years after his death in the 1920’s.


            At first, the offshoots of the beard competition were neither important nor harmful.  For not many people had access to mirrors, or frankly had reason to preserve what they saw in them.  However, this would change in the roaring twenties, the decade where people stopped being so ugly and actually started to look attractive.  It was at this time the smoking mirror pic became the “in” thing to do.  You see, ever since there has been a mirror there has been certain poses that define the decade.  In the 1920’s you had the clutching cigarette.  The 1980’s had the famous Walkman pose, with the thin connecting bar of the earphones separating the lush, outlandish hair associated with the likes of Whitesnake and Poison.  Even these iconic mirror pic poses were not all that harmful to society, maybe to lungs or the environment (the hole in Ozone layer could not have been helped by spike in hairspray usage in the 80’s), but not to the framework of society.  All this would change with the invention of Facebook and the presence of bored, teenage girls.


            Facebook has destroyed many things in its brief existence. I won’t trouble you with throwing out the usual list of three or four things to back up such claims, instead I will assume that whoever reads this is already aware of Facebook’s destructive power.  However, Facebook was particularly cruel to the mirror pic.  As stated above, before Facebook mirror pictures did not used to be 14 year old girls snapping pics in the bathroom of an Olive Garden. They had a purpose other than impressing 15 year old boys. They were not hated.  Now?  Facebook, with a little help from the “duckface”, has ruined the mirror picture. I suppose there is irony in the fact that Facebook, a site that allowed for pictures to be judged by the masses, destroyed something that was created for a single person to judge the masses.  Furthermore, those who have witnessed this epic fall from grace never experienced the mirror pic in all of its glory.  Instead, those who witness the burial of this once great photography technique are also the ones who dug the grave. At least we can take solace in the fact that this proverbial burial can happen, at least in our imaginations, next to its inventor: George Eastman.

Created: Aug 13, 2012

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