It’s funny. You have no idea how much time I’ve spent at photo shoots over the years. Countless. As a writer/creative director in advertising it was part of my job, along with my art director partners, to attend shoots. To make sure we were getting the shots we wanted. It was the same when I worked in the fashion industry.
That’s why yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt really resonated with me: “Are you as comfortable in front of a camera as behind one?”
Over the years I developed a really good ‘eye’. Just standing there, watching, I could pretty much tell which shots were working and which weren’t. Poring over contact sheets and low res scans has never been a problem for me. And I can always tell how to crop a photograph for the most drama and impact. What’s necessary and what isn’t.
Photography is also a hobby of mine. Not that I’m good technically. But, again, my eye is good. I can spot an interesting shot immediately. And most of the time when I take a picture, I shoot it cropped. I never realized I did that until my trip to India. One of my fellow travellers is a professional photographer, and she made me aware of it one day, when we were comparing photos.
I don’t try to do it. It’s just the way I ‘see’ the shot, as I’m taking it.
All to say I’m very happy, and comfortable, behind the camera.
Vastly different from how I feel in front of the camera. When I’m the subject. When someone is taking my photo. D O N O T L I K E I T O N E B I T. Not one bit. And, to be fair (to myself), there’s a good reason. Most pictures of me are hideous. Once in a blue moon someone catches me when I don’t know they have a camera pointed at me — you know — a candid shot — and it may turn out not bad.
But when I know, I inevitably freeze. I tense up. I blink at the wrong time. I move at the wrong time. I end up with a stupid smile on my face. Or a scowl. I end up looking lop-sided. Deranged. Pissed off. Like a fool. Cross-eyed. Like I should be institutionalized. Like Public Enemy Number One.
Having my photo taken is something I dread more than almost anything. I’d rather have root canal. Needles. Bunions. Stomach flu. I’d rather be squeezed into Spanx in 90 degree weather, quite frankly.
With good reason.
When I worked at BBDO, the honchos decided they wanted the entire management team to have new photos taken. All by the same photographer, so there’d be a uniform look. Yeah. Shit. Shit. Shit. There were several of us who weren’t excited at the prospect.
They chose a mother/daughter team. Yanka and Yolanda. Yanka is the mother and a former model. In fact, I knew her very well. She had modelled for me when I worked in the fashion industry.
No sooner did I arrive than I was thrust into a make-up chair, facing a huge mirror. Yanka did the hair, make up, wardrobe and psycho babble. Yolanda was the photographer. My hair and make up took almost three hours. No, I am not that ugly. At least I hope not. She did it very slowly, so I could appreciate the transformation. So I could see my features and bone structure become more defined, more accentuated. I have to admit it was pretty mind-blowing.
And all the time she was blending and shadowing and shading and contouring and covering and outlining and highlighting and glossing and blushing and brushing and dusting and powdering and curling and tweezing and penciling and teasing and blowing and ironing and crimping and fluffing … she was preparing me. Mentally.
While staring at my reflection in the mirror, she’d make me talk to myself. Say out loud how I loved my cheeks. And my nose. And my lips. I kid you NOT!!!!! She had me saying stuff like “I love my baby cheeks” as she pinched them. She made me do exercises to loosen our facial muscles. Don’t ask how ridiculous that looked!! Thank God there were no iPhones or social media back then, is all I can say. She went through the same routine with each and every one of us.
According to Yanka, “The key to a great photograph is to be relaxed. When your muscles tense, the photos always look horrible”. And that’s what she was doing. Relaxing me.
Easy for her to say. I cannot tell you how stupid I felt. How stupid I thought I must look. Imagine blowing kisses to yourself in the mirror. And saying how much you love your chin. Really!
Finally it was time for my photo. She did some last minute fiddling with my clothes, added some jewelry and more lip gloss and dragged me on to the seamless. Suddenly Yolanda appeared, with one camera slung around her neck and another in her hand. Lights were adjusted. And she started snapping. From all kinds of different angles. While Yanka was jumping around like a rabid monkey, cooing at me. She was here, there and everywhere. Like a jack-in-the-box. Popping on and off the edge of the seamless, barking (nicely) orders and encouragement at me.
Seriously it felt like I was in a Monty Python movie. Or an asylum. I swear I’m not doing it justice. I was shell-shocked by the time it was over. Exhausted, I headed back to the agency.
The results, however, were astounding. Outstanding. Out of hundreds of shots taken, there was not even one bad one. Everyone else who’d had their photos taken said the same thing. None of us could believe it. It was nothing short of a miracle.
Having said that, if it’s all the same to you, I still prefer to be the one behind the camera, calling the shots.