Thursday, April 16, 2015

Take My Picture, Please?

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. 
Ansel Adams

Back in the early 90's, my neighbor's mother often visited from Minnesota. Marge, well into her 60's, dyed her hair red and loved having her picture taken with famous people. Not too many famous types hung out in Austin at that time, but if they were here, Marge found them. Always got a picture and always found herself in the photo as well.

Her daughter-in-law calls her the original Photo Bomber.  She didn't get famous people to pose with her like the selfie shots posted on Facebook and everywhere else. She didn't interrupt their business and have their arms slung around her like they were best buds. Nope. Not Marge. She made it look like she was with them. Part of their entourage.

When the men's Legends golf tournament was in town, I'll be darned if Marge didn't get a photo taken strutting down the cart path beside Chi Chi Rodriguez, like she was carrying his putter or something. She and Chi Chi out vying for a win on the senior golf tour.*

Marge, a mother of nine, must have trained her children at an early age to get the perfect shot. I imagined her thrusting the camera into their hands and saying, "Okay, I'm going in. Get this right."

When Queen Elizabeth came to town (for the life of me I can't remember why the Queen was in Austin, Texas) it didn't surprise me when my neighbor shared a photo of Marge, standing just behind the queen. Photos fresh from the one-hour Fotomat and Marge snickering as she viewed it.

Go Marge.

Last Christmas Day, my husband and I flew to New York City. After Christmas Eve with the four kids in Austin, we spent the rest of the holiday with the boy who couldn't come home. That Bama Boy turned Chef.

As we wandered the crowded city streets (NYC is a busy place, but Midtown at Christmas? Ridiculous.) I noticed an inordinate number of blind people. So many walking around in a group with their white-tipped walking sticks folded up, unused in their hands.

About to mutter something stupid to my son about a blind person convention on Christmas Day, I noticed that the wadded sticks didn't have white tips. That occurred about the same time I almost tripped over an extended one. One that dangled a smart phone on the end of it.

I quickly became familiar with the digital accessory (clean up your mind, Julie) also known as the Selfie Stick. Designed to improve one's Selfie experience by easing arm health and extending the scope of one's photo while affording an opportunity to spend more time taking photos than enjoying what is in front of one's face. Followed then by standing in front of said place/item of interest and examining if photo is good enough or needs a retake. Then, still standing in place while posting to social media while others in the vicinity await their turn to Selfie or just want to see the shit in front of them.

Yes, I ran out of patience with them. Everything I wanted to see, like the window displays at Macy's or a favorite painting at the Met, I patiently awaited my turn for a glimpse while the selfie groups crowded around me. I couldn't help but wonder why everyone wanted to busy themselves taking a picture with something important behind them. Where was the joy in seeing it, studying it? Taking a photo of the item itself for later enjoyment and recollection? Not staring at their mugs on a tiny screen.

Where did this narcissism come from? This need to be seen with the famous or the famed. The need to see one's own face plastered on tiny computer screens to mark their presence for the world to see.

Of course, I need to remember that I hate having my photo taken and I'm not as much into individualism as the Average Joe. Humble about it, too. Would I really like to stand in front of a famous painting and snap a photo of myself? Imagine standing in front of a Picasso. What would be the point?

I mean, would I be saying, "I posed for this painting?" or "Am I as fat as this bitch?"
Seriously.  I so would not do anything like that.

Some might say "Well, you take pictures at famous places and  museums."

Yes, I do. But I have a reason. I'm there on a limited time schedule. My husband is with me and I only have a certain amount of time before his head explodes. It's like being in a race. Taking photos lets me linger on the subjects long after we've left the museum or famous site. I also get to see more as I can't imagine ever getting him back so I move quickly, taking in all I can get.

And me, being the art expert that I am, take my photos so I can study them at a later date. Like the texture in this Van Gogh.



I could examine the ferocity in those brush strokes for days. Consider the flurry of what went on in Vincent's mind as he loaded his palette with more and more paint. Even wonder if he painted it while contemplating cutting his ear off or while it hurt like hell after. Okay, maybe not that.

Back to individualism and the Selfie Stick. Would that Van Gogh painting have been better for you if I were standing, say, right in the middle? No, and that again is the point. I think. This photo wasn't taken for you. I had no intent when I took it to post it on social media or intend for you to muddle through a very long blog post. I took it for self-enjoyment. For my own individual needs, not the collective lot of you.

I don't take photos to share.



Nope, not me standing front of the Christmas tree at freaking Rockefeller Center on Christmas Night.


Nope, not me with a view of the entire skyline of Manhattan in the background.


Nope, not me holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Nope, you will not find me needing to post photos of myself on social media. And that photo in Pisa? A selfie stick would not have been helpful. I still needed another body. Or a camera with a timer on it.

Before selfies and their accouterments came into vogue, one might have to find a rock or chair to set the camera upon, set the timer, and run back to get in the frame. Or ask another to take the photo. Like a stranger. Bingo! The selfie stick negates the need to communicate with others. How cool is that?

My husband isn't good for the Selfie Stick empire. He might not have any patience for my stopping to take a snapshot, but he most certainly never hesitates to offer to take a photo of people trying to capture themselves.

Doesn't occur to him they might be in Selfie mode. Often when he offers, they give a guarded look and he calmly says, "Here, you can hold my phone while I take it." They smile and appease him and he starts to chat with them. "Where you from?" "What all are you doing today?"  Hasn't said a word to me for an hour, but he's got all day to chat with strangers.

I stand idly by and sometimes they offer to take our photo as well. I reluctantly comply as I do need to leave some record that I existed and photos of us as a couple are indeed rare. But the question to pose is 'Would this photo of the old boy and me been better if we had taken it of ourselves?'


Probably not. Every Selfie I've ever taken of myself (something wrong with that phrase) I've deleted. Something about that double chin being much more defined in that close up.

It is nice, I admit, to have a memory of a time together. Like on this trip to Wyoming with Middle Son.

 
I took this photo and in looking back at it,  I note the reflection of the mountain in the water, the ripples made by the breeze, and the green in the pine tree. But the next one helps me recall much more vividly that day travelling alone through Wyoming with Middle Son. We asked someone near us to take it.

\

I still see the reflection of the mountain. The ripple in the water, the green of pine. But I also see a lovely smile on that young man's face. That it truly was okay to be stuck in the wilds with his mother. I can't recall the name of that mountain in the Tetons, but I do recall the joy of that moment. And perhaps that is what picture taking is all about and I need to give those people mugging all the photo stops a break. Myself included.

However, this photo could not possibly have captured that moment if I were concentrating on manoeuvring a long stick in front of me.  Or if there were a crowd of people awaiting a photo in the exact same spot. And then not moving until I decided if it was good enough to post on my Facebook or needed to take another one because the water wasn't rippling just as I wanted it. Or I wanted to pull up my bra strap.

Something tells me I don't know what I'm talking about in this post. I had intended it to be a serious discussion regarding individualism. The pursuit of my needs before all others instead of living life for the collected good of all.

As you can sorely see, my Midlife Roadtripper blogpost mind does not allow me to stay serious for very long. Perhaps that is a good thing. Serious essays are very hard to write.

If I ventured back to my original idea of what this post might relay, I would come to this photo. With time running out at Metropolitan Museum (my husband ready to race me to the exit doors) I awaited yet another person in front of a painting so I could take my photo uninhibited. As I tapped my foot and studied the Monet from afar, I finally noticed she wasn't standing in front of it to take a photo of herself. She was doing what was meant to happen.


And that was the photo I wanted.

I've heard Selfie Sticks have now been banned from the Met and many other venues. I'm glad. Perhaps a 'return to sanity' sign.

After all, Marge didn't need a Selfie Stick. Didn't bother anybody.  Didn't hold anyone up. For her, the fun was in the pursuit. Her photos aren't lolling about in cyber space or framed on her walls. Word has it they reside in an old box in the basement, unseen for years. In her mind's eye, I imagine Marge recalls. I can see her snickering.


*(An aside, I have a special affinity for Chi Chi Rodriquez. I recall the show WKRP in Cincinnati from years ago. Les Nesman, the news/weather/sports reporter, once reported on a golf tournament announcing Chi Chi as Chie Chie Rod-wa-gweez. Loved it then and it still makes me chuckle.)

34 comments:

  1. Well done, Jules. What a great perspective you have on selfies. We do feel narcissistic--or I do when I take selfies, which I rarely like. My backup folders are littered with selfies that were deleted the moment my eyes set on them. I draw the line at the selfie stick. I'm like Bob. I'd rather speak to strangers and ask for their help. Anyway, great pics, including the selfies, and thanks for doing your part to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa standing.

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    1. You know, one has to do what one has to do. Pisa thanks me.

      Good luck with your book sales. So excited for you.

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  2. I still have a Chi- Chi golf shirt with a sombrero on the front. LOL Never noticed a selfie stick. I have a timer I use on my camera and jump into the frame. Sometimes when I asked someone to shoot, they don't understand close up and I am a tiny part of the pic.

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    1. Haha, yes, having someone else take it can bring on some surprises. A lady took our photo up in Oregon last year. She held down on the button and it took 45 blast photos. Too funny.

      Cheers to Chi Chi.

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  3. Oh, I really did enjoy this long and rather humorous post. The pictures, too. I love that last one very much, what a beautiful Monet, and the woman doesn't distract in the least, in fact, she adds to the picture. :-)

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    1. Thank you, DJan. I know, it got rather long. What I put out when I think about it too much. And, yes, the last picture -- what it should be about.

      Happy Hiking to you.

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  4. Back in my wannabe a great amateur photographer days I returned from Maine with packets of photos I culled, and passed around. One friend laughing inquired, "How do we know you were there; you aren't in any one of these." Been forty years and I still laugh. I wonder if that person is a selfie-monster these days.
    I do have a friend who has a small point and shoot in a case that also holds a small tripod. She cannot let any good time go without a picture of everyone in it.
    Photography has been turned around in my lifetime; it's a completely different experience now.

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    1. Yes, camera before last had a little tripod as well. I think some of the most fun photos are the ones where the shooter is trying to get back into the photo. Or the camera goes off before everyone is ready. Brought lots of laughs looking at those and I can still giggle about them.

      I prefer photos of others and interesting things. Not those of me. We'll have to watch how the Selfie thing evolves.

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  5. I am on Instagram. I post lots of photos on Instagram. I have a few followers, and I follow a few. I will NOT follow anyone, though, whose page of photos is all selfies. Boring. I want to see scenery, food, places, people, but not selfies.

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    1. I'm with you, dkzody. Much more interesting to study what the photographer wanted to capture.

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  6. I agree with EVERY word you said!
    This whole "selfie" thing just puts people in the middle of everything, but is it MEANINGFUL? What VALUE does it add?
    Yes, it's great to get a snapshot of people together enjoying an event, but I fear the snapshot frenzy has far exceeded experiencing the event for so many people.
    And don't even get me started on FOOD and DRINK selfies.
    I did enjoy this post so much. It was like you were in my head saying (more eloquently) stuff I've been thinking.

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    1. Aw, thank you Green Girl. I've been trying to figure out how to say it for quite some time.

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  7. Lovely to have you back on my radar - I shall put you on my side bar when I have written this!
    Loved reading your post and do so agree. Selfies are rubbish and I'll bet that an awful lot of them are erased in no time at all. At present here it is all get a selfie with the Prime Minister of the Leader of the Opposition or some politician as our election comes up in three weeks. The politicians smile and grin and bear it - I suppose they have to - it might mean another vote.

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    1. Ha! Yes, can you imagine the backlash if they refused. That would be an entirely different situation for them.

      Honored to be on your sidebar. Your blog is so lovely and I've enjoyed it for a very long time.

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  8. I thoroughly enjoyed your post today. It will remind us of the decade we all got lost taking pictures of our faces, and forgetting the rest of the planet passing us bye.

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  9. HA! I love this post. You are so right. The selfie. Ugh. Enough is enough, already! And they are so staged. Blech.
    A comedian does a fantastic bit about how people are viewing life through their phones now taking pics and recording everything instead of being present and seeing it first hand. He says that people walk around viewing life through a little 3 inch screen and talk about the high quality pictures and then yells, "put your phone down! EVERYTHING is in HD! You wouldn't believe the colors!" It is pretty funny.

    Your neighbor's mother sounds like a hoot. I love her. I would much rather take those kind of photos than to ask a celeb to pose with me. She sounds like fun. :)

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  10. Marge was/is a pleasure a know. The comedian reminds me also of all those videos we used to take of our kids in all their activities. Rarely saw them in real-life form as we had our faces in the video camera. Now, I hate to say it, but I'm not certain where those are. Shameful.

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  11. I finally saw a selfie stick in my town the other day. It was inevitable they would come to fill the insatiable need. Your story about Marge is hilarious!

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    1. Thank you, Karen. My future daughter-in-law sent me a picture the other day of the sticks for sale in our town. We're being infiltrated. So it goes.
      I'm glad you enjoyed Marge's story. There are even better ones about her, but I'm keeping for a later date. Glad to hear from you.

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    1. Kinda of figured that about you, Becky. Ha!

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  13. I so enjoyed your take on the selfie stick, I especially don't appreciate them in museums or theme parks! I don't have one myself, but will admit to taking selfies. My favourite one's are the one's with my daughters. Sometimes I think it's the only way this Mama can get in the picture :)

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    1. I get the part about a selfie being a way to get in a photo. I do have two selfies of family members from over ten years ago. One with my mom and one with all three of my brothers. Really good photos, as it turns out.

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  14. A thought-provoking post. I hate my photograph being taken other than to celebrate I family life and think twice before I put a pic of myself out there for the world to see. If I do there has to be a good reason as part of my writing/photo journal. I don't 'get' selfies, but each to their own. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment on my blog - much appreciated.

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    1. I understand. I'm quite particular on which photos go out with me in them. I'm thinking that might be about the only thing that is all about me. My choice only.

      Looking forward to visiting you again.

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  15. Rambling though it may have been I enjoyed the whole thing err... whole read. :)

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    1. Rambling, indeed. Thanks for making it through, Troutbirder.

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  16. Yes, I'm not too fond of the selfie stick either. I'd sooner look at real art than myself.

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  17. Wow...I live a sheltered life....I have never heard of selfie sticks. That is crazy and I too wonder what it says about us? Yikes. I do have to say the story of Marge gave me a good belly laugh. Speaking of photography...I just watched the most interesting documentary about a recently discovered photographer whose work was discovered after her death...Vivian Maire. It was such a facinating, odd and disturbing story. Her photography was utterly stunning though. Have a good week.

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    1. Maybe all of Marge's will show up in a collection some day. Who knows? Don't worry not hearing of the selfie stick. I obviously was behind the curve, er, stick, without seeing it either.

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  18. Oh, yes, that final photo is THE photo. I also really appreciate your picture of the brush strokes on the Van Gogh. As for the Selfie Stick, I'll take a dildo over one of those any day.

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