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:
This 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!