Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Photography

The Photographer’s Plight

I get asked to take pictures at events and because people know I have a decent camera and have sold my photo art. I always say yes, but it is not a particularly fun job. Aren’t you dying to know why?

I’ll tell you. Even though people want pictures to remember events, they don’t want their picture taken. When you hold a camera up and aim it at people, half of them try to duck behind someone else like a child hiding behind its’ mother’s skirt. The elderly, obese, and even crippled will take off running like they’re doing the 50-yard dash if they see me raise my camera. They will risk broken hips and worse in an effort to keep me from taking a picture of them.

On the other hand, there are people who know how to strike a perfect pose. They know which side of their face photographs well, where to put their hands, how to angle their feet, and that looking slightly down will make their eyes look bigger. These people can sense a camera from across the room and always manage to look good. The camera “loves” these people. That’s because they don’t treat the cameraperson like s/he’s got the plague.

I try to get everyone in at least one picture, which is hard when they see me coming and show me their backsides, or hide behind pillars and drink carts. So I’m forced to take “candid” shots. These are a CURSE. The general public is UGLY in a candid shot. The general public is stuffing an entire sausage in their mouth just as the camera clicks the shot. They are raising their arm so that the cottage cheesy divots are accentuated. They have a spiteful look aimed at the person beside them, like they intend to stab them after the event. Some of them are even scratching that itch that can’t be scratched in public.

When they catch you taking a candid shot, some scowl at you. Perhaps they don’t take good pictures and they feel they can compensate by contorting their features, as if saying, “I always turn out ugly in a picture, but if I look like I’m being ugly on purpose, no one will notice that I photograph so poorly” This does not help the poor photographer who simply wants to impress people with her talent for making even the hideous among us attractive. We can accomplish this anyway, in many cases, thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

Photoshop is the photographer’s best friend. It allows us to turn everyday images into art. For instance, if you hire an artist to paint your portrait, and he includes your double chins, pimples, the wart on your jawbone that has a six-inch wiry hair growing out of it, the gunk in the corner of your eye, and so forth, if you’re like me, you’d probably smash the canvas over his head before you smacked him with a dining room chair. He is going to downplay your imperfections if he wants to come out of there alive and with a check in his hand.

A skilled photographer can also “paint” people in a more positive light using Photoshop to make our subjects look their best. I had one guy tell me that a headshot I took of him was the first time he had a decent picture in his whole life. Little did he know that I spent about two hours taking him from a Frankenstein into a less-than-a-Frankenstein. Many of his individual teeth were so tobacco-stained they blended right into his skin, making him appear like there were missing teeth and thus giving the mistaken impression that he came from Mississippi. I smoothed his dents and pocks which helped to make his squinty eyes more becoming.

You, the general public, need not be afraid when approached by a photographer if you will PRACTICE IN FRONT OF A MIRROR. RIGHT NOW. No, not later. NOW! See what’s your best side, and when I come at you with my camera, you can say, “Oh, Suzanne, I’m so HAPPY to see you are here taking my picture.”  Then hurry up and swallow that sausage.

My Brain Reveals Itself

Yesterday I went back to see if any more of my photos had sold at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, and none had. Funny how you can be so excited about something – “YIPPEE! TWO OF MY PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE SOLD!!!! – and so quickly go to – “only two of my photographs have sold.”

My expectation the first day was that none of them might sale, and how awful that would be. But at the end of the first day, I was so excited that I’d made two sales because it validated me as a photographer and artist. I got the stamp of approval from the world.

By the end of the second day, however, the world had said to me, “You got lucky with those two, but we’re wise to you now and you won’t get away with fooling us into thinking that you’ve got talent.”

Not that the world is actually saying this (maybe they are. If you hear something, let me know), but the little whining, insecure voice in my head is saying, “Why did you ever think you could be a photographer? How humiliating to have your stuff hanging in a festival with real artwork for the entire world to see and not have any little orange dots on your card except for a measly two.”

This voice hounds me day in and day out. It’s a wonder I can ever get anything done, because it questions everything I do.

“Why are you still using that frayed toothbrush? It’s embarrassing.”

“It works fine, and who’s going to see it?”

“I see it. It might work fine, but it’s an eyesore and you know you’re supposed to replace those things every few months.”

“I just got it about six weeks ago. Can I help it if the toothbrush companies make them so they get frayed really quick?”

“Oh, so now you’re going to blame it on the toothbrush companies?”

This conversation banters back and forth until I leave the bathroom, at which time the voice starts in about something else: “Why don’t you clean out this closet?”

The reason I actually accomplish anything is that another voice tells me how great I am. This one says, “Why are you only entering nine of your photographs? How can you pick just nine when they are all so beautiful?”

These guys are in there arguing like an umpire and a baseball coach, in each other’s faces, spit flying: “If you’d clean out this closet, you could find something to wear.”

“There’s plenty to wear, in fact, there are so many cute things in here it’s impossible to choose between them.”

“Cute? Cute? Did you say cute? Look at this shirt? When’s the last time anyone wore this thing? It’s got a stain on the front.”

“That stain is microscopic. Nobody without x-ray vision could see that stain.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So how come you never wear it?”

When I move to the kitchen, they start on something new: “Are you going to put that much butter on your toast? I thought you were trying to lose weight.”

I don’t know if other people have to contend with this, but to me it’s like having two kids in the back seat bickering:

“She hit me!”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“He hit me first.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

“That’s because she was looking at me.”

“Was not.”

“Were too.”

Georgia O’Keeffe, the artist who does those paintings of one part of a flower magnified to sometimes look like a vagina, once said, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” She also said: “I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” This makes her sound kind of crotchety.

The point is that she must have had those two voices in her head all the time, too, and I know exactly what she means when she says she’s terrified every moment. I’m just like her, except not rich and famous. I’m afraid of my own shadow, which is the reason I live in Oregon where the sun rarely shines (that’s a joke, ha ha – get it? I don’t see my shadow to be afraid of it here in Oregon because….oh forget it.)

If you are still with me on this long, rambling journey through the workings of my brain, you are probably wondering how we got so far away from the topic about my photographs. You and me both. But I will bring this full circle by saying that I promised in my last post to make my next one twice as long, and I think I’ve succeeded, so I can end this now. Aren’t I clever?

“Are not.”

“Am too.”

“Are not.”

“Am too.”

“Are not.”

“Am too.”

Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Olsen