Wednesday, December 24, 2008

two tries

The digital era is constantly confounding me. I learned how to take pictures with a small plastic camera that my father got for free from Time Magazine from sending in some sort of rebate. He bought me film and I ran up and down Grant Avenue taking gray pictures with crazy light leaks. We would drop off the film and pick it up a week later and I would see what happened for 4 bucks a roll. The rule was to try to take the best picture you can the first time.

Since being here in Ithaca I've been taking pictures of friends and keep finding myself working with this same frugality. Sometimes I force myself to loosen up, telling myself that I can edit later... but here's the thing about that-- when I take 10 pictures of someone, they all just sort of start looking the same. And they become less precious. When I take only one picture of someone, it always looks great to me because it's the only one-- I love how their smile is crooked, their mouth is open, their hair sticking out to the side, their hat shadowing their face, their eyes looking somewhere else.

I like this picture because it's two tries at the same shot of Harry, Ginny and Bert. Each one is different and the print admits and celebrates their differences. Harry officiates, Ginny sulks and Bert mediates. When I found this photo there were a couple of other prints like it in the same box, and I thought they were so interesting because they begin to solve the failure of photography to tell the truth. Of course, this is a problematic thing to say, because what does truth even mean? Well, I'm not sure, but I guess that the problem for me is that with digital photography the person carelessly snaps and then edits the pictures down until there are only a few really good looking (read: predictably happy) ones left. And the problem with only taking one picture with an analog camera is that you don't see the moments before and after the picture-- that the person is posing more than they would for a digital snapshot. This diptych has both qualities-- the imperfection of film photography and the implication of time and fluidity of emotion evident film or a digitally shot series.

My grandfather is learning how to use his digital camera and showed my mother and I dozens of pictures this morning of his ladyfriend Mrs. Brain (Madonna) who sadly passed away this September. He hammered me with questions about what it means to be in art school, which made me feel like such a child. I wish that I could show him this blog, but I'm not sure it is manicured enough for approval from his generation. But I like it that way, and I like me this way, unmanicured and imperfect, my mouth open, hair sticking out and eyes looking somewhere else.

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