film – Why do I literally look like a zombie on some old photos taken with an early-1990s analogue camera?

In some old photos from the early and mid 1990s, taken with a probably cheap (but far from “one-time camera quality”) camera bought in either the early 1990s or late 1980s, with standard consumer Kodak film, oftentimes in bad lighting and with a built-in flash, I literally look like a zombie.

I don’t just mean red eyes and red lips. I mean that, somehow, the optics or, perhaps more likely, the now-primitive electronics and chips inside of the camera made rather… peculiar choices/interpretations around my mouth.

It has seemingly morphed all my teeth and flesh in such a manner that it looks like I have some sort of flesh-eating virus and somebody has stabbed me numerous time all around my mouth and teeth. It looks truly bizarre. The same camera was certainly capable of capturing sane photos, and it usually did when the lighting was good and it was outdoors/daylight, but it really suffered from bad light and the flash.

Still, I don’t understand how it could not just get the colors wrong, and not even just the proportions, but actually basically re-edit the photo on its own, so that it no longer resembles my face as it actually looked at all. How does something like that happen? Of course, this camera was made long before there were any kind of “filters” or “overlay effects” built into cameras. I almost start to wonder if the Kodak employee saw the negative and decided to spend some time in the red room with chemicals to rearrange my mouth to play a “zombie prank” on us, but if so, he did it both on the negative and the final photo… so it seems unlikely.

I really wish I could show you an example, but the sole reason I cannot is for privacy purposes.