The power of words

People never cease to disappoint me.  I have no idea where the current trend of saying everything that’s on your mind has come from, but all it does is create conflict.  We seem to have lost the ability to think of anyone else’s feelings but our own and tact seems to have done a runner.

I’ve had a weird idea for a photo in my head for a while, so this week I put it into practice.  It involved someone dressing up in a long dress and a velvet cape to give the illusion of a by-gone era and I couldn’t find a volunteer, so I volunteered myself.  For Christmas I’ve treated myself to an off-camera flash so before starting on my complicated photo I wanted to do some practice shots to try it out.  I’ve never used flash before and haven’t a clue what I’m doing but I learned a lot from my little trial.  Having said all that, trying to light and focus on a model who isn’t actually there because they’re behind the camera was tricky!  I had to keep fiddling with the settings on my camera, then dashing round to sit on a stool, focus my camera with a remote shutter release, take the picture, then get up again to check the image.  I must have spent nearly an hour fiddling around trying to get the new lighting right and by the end of it I was sweating like a  pig on a spit.

I don’t usually put photos of myself on my blog, for the reason that there are a lot of fucking weirdos out there who could save the image and use it for god knows what purpose.   Why on earth anyone would want to download a photo of a total stranger off the internet is anyone’s guess, but I know it does happen and a friend of mine had photos stolen off her blog and found them being used on t-shirts!!  However, the whole point of this post is what a “friend” said about my picture so I’m going to break the habit of a lifetime and include it:

selfieThis wasn’t meant to be a portrait of myself – I was just practicing my lighting for another shot.  I put on a little eyeshadow and lipstick so I could see how colour came out under my new flash, but other than that I’m wearing no foundation, blusher or anything else – in fact, I don’t think I’d even washed my face for two days previous to this picture being taken and put the eyeshadow on ontop of the muck 😉  It has not been photoshopped or airbrushed in any way, apart from lightening the blue in my eyes a little.  And bear in mind I’ve been ill for over two decades, hardly sleep, spend every day in pain and exhausted to the point of collapse and will be 50 this birthday.  So, knowing all that I think it came out OK.

I put my photos on Facebook for my friends to comment on as some of them are also into photography and give me invaluable feedback on my technique.  Within seconds of this image being put on Facebook I received a text (why did she text me, why didn’t she comment on Facebook?) from a “friend” who told me the image was awful, I looked miserable, I looked years older than I am and to basically get rid of it (and she used exclamation points to ram the message home).

Why would someone say that, particularly someone who is supposed to be my friend?  What was her intention in telling me she hated my portrait and I looked like shit, because the only reason I could think of for saying that to someone is to make them feel bad.  What did she expect my reply to be?  “Gosh, being as though you hate it I’ll delete it immediately.  And of course I will run any photo past you in the future in case you don’t like it”.  Or “I’m sorry I look old, I’ll book myself in for a some Botox and fillers toute suite or maybe you think I should go the whole hog and have a face lift”.  Just to spite her I feel like printing it off as an A3 poster and putting it on my lounge room wall 😉  Try taking a close-up picture of yourself, without makeup and under harsh studio lighting and lets see how your fifty year old face turns out – there’s a bloody good reason we only see 20 year old flawless models in advertising campaigns and that’s because they’re the only people whose features look good under those conditions and even then their images are airbrushed to within an inch of their life after the event.

I was always taught that if you have nothing nice to say about someone, you say nothing because to say something nasty is hurtful.  It seems these days we’ve lost the ability to consider the power of our words and how they affect others.

I’m helping with our Camera Club’s beginners group this year and this includes having to critique people’s photos.  Some of the pictures are absolutely dreadful but, although I do give constructive criticism and tell someone how the image can be improved, I always always say something positive because you can decimate someone’s confidence by telling them how crap their picture is and I’m in the job of making people into better photographers, not making them feel so shit about their work they never pick up a camera again.

There seems to be a mind-set these days that people are “entitled to their opinion” but y’know what, they’re not.  Not if their opinion is hurtful, belittling, spiteful or just plain nasty.  Your friends are supposed to lift you up, not make you feel like crap.  I wouldn’t even intentionally be nasty to a stranger as I don’t know their circumstances or the impact my words will have – they could be on the brink and my being mean could tip them over the edge.  The exception is if they’ve already been hurtful to me, and then to be fair the gloves are off and they deserve what they get!

My final image (below), and the reason I was practicing dressed up in a cape, isn’t my most successful ever but it’s all a learning curve – not every picture can be a competition winning masterpiece.  This composite picture was incredibly hard to achieve and I learned much in doing it, not least who my friends are!

 

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20 thoughts on “The power of words

  1. gill

    Even out of the context you’ve explained, it’s a stunning photo. And in context it’s pure gorgeous art. I want to share a story about a friend posting a photo once, similar response, but I’m not going to drag it up! On the positive side, your friend maybe thinks you’re so beautiful in real life that this photo doesn’t do you justice, so starting from naturally beautiful in this pic (whatever your age but yes looking great for 49 with or without illness – you wouldn’t know), she’s used to even more beautiful? So if that’s where she’s coming from its a massive compliment and maybe forgive her xx

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    1. Jak Post author

      Thanks Gill. I think I might feel more like forgiving her if I hadn’t replied to her text saying she’d hurt my feelings, but instead of apologising she justified her original message by re-stating I looked shit! I guess I would just never say that to someone because I know it would hurt their feelings so am finding it hard to understand her motives x

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      1. gill

        Okay yes I see your point. If she were correct she shouldn’t even have said it then, but you don’t look ‘shit’, you look good, so I don’t understand what she’s trying to achieve!

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  2. Glo

    I thought you looked great! That being said, art is not about perfection. I look for other things suchas how light and shadow can be used etc. We are in a world of growing ignorance. I blame reality tv. 😺

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  3. artfulblasphemer

    Social media certainly seems to have encouraged the belief that all input is welcome–in the much the same way that it’s just fine for men to catcall women if they are out in public. As a fashion blogger, I put up a photo of myself almost everyday. And sometimes, someone feels that the reason I do that is because I need their help or advice in some way. I have, in particular, one acquaintance that felt the need to tell me that I could address my wrinkles with certain interventions that I, personally, am not interested in having–nor was I whining about my wrinkles! That said, the kind of person who disguises advice as an attack is clearly a very unhappy, miserable person who needs to be shown the door immediately.

    Also, you look fantastic in your photo–a real woman whose face is interesting and strong–if only we could learn to see that in each other instead of the bizarre falsity of artificial beauty standards.

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    1. Jak Post author

      You’re incredibly brave to put up photos of yourself every day! As a fashion blogger I’m sure you’re OK with constructive criticism regarding your outfits, but why on earth someone would then decide you need to alter your own features goes way beyond the boundaries. If this person had said the lighting on my picture was harsh (after all, practising lighting was the whole point of the exercise) that would have been fine, but to criticize me as a person I found rude. I totally agree that hiding behind the internet seems to have given people carte blance to say whatever they like, even when their advice hasn’t been asked for x

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  4. donnahuebsch

    I have to tell you, my first reaction when I saw your picture was that you looked absolutely beautiful. I wasn’t going to comment that because it kind of sounds like Internet creeper stuff but after hearing your friend’s comment I felt like I needed to tell you what my first impression was. It is a lovely photo.

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  5. Kat

    I don’t usually comment, either, but your friend is an idiot!
    Maybe this is not a conventionally “nice” photo of you, but it certainly is a stunning piece of photography. It looks very severe, and you look very strong. And beautiful.
    Time to block your friend on Facebook or downgrade her to an acquaintance…

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    1. Jak Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Kat. I wish I could block this person but she’s a neighbour 😦 And I thought a friend, but I personally would never criticize a friend in this way x

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  6. Livvy Woodburn

    Hi Jak,

    Just to say that I thought you looked stunning & if your friend said what she did she must see you in less harsh circumstances/ lighting etc & be used to you looking even more beautiful & probably hadn’t thought deeply about her flippant comment & doesn’t see why she’s upset you. I am awful at always saying the wrong thing & I really don’t mean it I am just rubbish with words and I need people to explain to me how or why I might have upset them because I would never intend to! If you see what I mean? I hope you can make peace xx

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    1. Jak Post author

      Thanks Livvy. I did text her back to say she’d hurt my feelings, but instead of apologising she replied by saying “I’m sure it will win a competition, but you do look awful in it!” So even knowing she’d been hurtful she still didn’t seem to care 😦

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  7. Jen Candoff

    I was thinking what many others were posting…you look great for your age and being ill. Can’t believe your friend thinks otherwise. Like someone else stated you must be even more gorgeous in person so they want you to look the way they see you. Not sure really.

    I have Mast Cell issues that come out my skin and have ugly scars from head to toe. I work with customers and coworkers and so far these last years no one at work makes nasty comments. It’s bad enough to be in pain without the sad comments. Plus I’m the oldest person working there.

    I read your blog and am grateful for all the time and energy you put into it.

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    1. Jak Post author

      So sorry to hear of your mast cell issues Jen, though it’s good to hear that the people around you are accepting. Appreciate the comment x

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  8. That Other Jean

    I’m sorry a person you thought of as a friend could miss the beauty in your portrait. Perhaps she is one of those people who sees beauty only in the unmarked, untroubled faces of the young. If that is so, she is very wrong–there is beauty also in the faces older people, whose strength and struggles mark them with character. You are a beautiful woman, and it shines from your photograph.

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