Lighting, glass, and make-up

So, Bo got a new lens not too long ago. This lens is specifically supposed to be awesome for portrait photography – high quality glass and something that I don’t understand about the focal length. I’ll be honest – there are two reasons it is difficult sometimes for me to be married to a photographer. The first one is that photographers love to techno-speak, and I glaze over whenever Bo and one of his photobuddies start talking about things like depth-of-field and bokeh. It’s not that I don’t understand it. I am actually fascinated by the math and physics involved in bending light rays to your will. It is just that my artistic “eye” does not encompass that level of detail. When my Bo shows me one photograph taken with a pretty good lens, and a similar one taken with an awesome lens, and says “see the difference?” … I don’t. They look of equal quality to me.

The other, more frustrating reason that I struggle with being married to a photographer is that I despise being photographed. Really, really, would rather have a root canal most days. I don’t think I am particularly vain or insecure – I don’t have any trouble looking at myself in the mirror, and mostly I’m more concerned with whether I am neatly dressed and “put together” looking than any conventional standard of “pretty.” But in photographs of me it seems to me that every blotch, wrinkle, and the bags under my eyes are magnified and enhanced, until it looks like someone took a picture of bags and wrinkles, and there happens to be a girl in the background. For the most part pictures of me don’t look like me. Remember in “Men in Black” when the farmer’s wife described the alien as something “wearing Edgar… like an Edgar suit?” Most pictures of me look to me like a skeleton wearing a Chandra suit. The camera doesn’t just add ten pounds – on me it adds about twenty years as well.

There are exceptions. The admin chief at my school took a shot of me and Bo at the ball this year that I really really like, it actually looks like us. I am using it for my FB profile pic now, in fact. And once in a while Bo will catch me off guard and some magical combination of the lighting, my expression, and his skill will produce a shot that looks like me. But for the most part, I avoid cameras like superstitious sailors avoid red-haired women.

So, did I mention Bo got a new portrait lens? And when he has new equipment and he wants to experiment with it, “get a feel for it,” and find out what it can do, who is the most logical person for him to ask to model for him? Yeah, his wife. I try to be supportive, I really do.

So this afternoon, doing my make-up for a shoot, I was remembering back to my drama team days in high school. The drama department, with our amazing teacher LG, was responsible for my surviving high school. I was painfully shy as a teen, and had the social skills of a hibernating badger, so I was not exactly in the running for homecoming queen. But I could act, and I loved it. And being on stage, pretending to be someone else, got me through the most awkward and painful four years of my life. Almost all of my few decent memories of adolescence have  heavy make-up on, the kind that changes your apparent bone structure and makes you look older or younger or more evil or more innocent. I just looked at a few of the pics from today’s shoot. I look like me – 44 years old, with a few wrinkles. I love them (the pictures, not the wrinkles – but I really don’t mind about the wrinkles either. I earned ’em.) But in person today I looked like Tammy Faye Bakker on a bad day. It seems funny to me that I have to look fake in person to look realistic on film.

Thanks to that drama team, and the speech-debate team that went with it (same teacher/coach), I did make it to adulthood without that paralyzing fear of public speaking that many people suffer from. All the credit for my success as a teacher and public speaker can be traced back to that greasepaint, and to my love for pretending to be someone else. Today, while Bo was shooting me, I was “playing” Heidi Klum. It kept me sane. In fact, it was his idea. When I teach, or even do the opening briefs, in front of 100+ new students, I am not really “me” – I am Lincoln, Reagan, Churchhill, any or all of the great public speakers that I have studied and admire.

I don’t really know if that is dysfunctional or not. Does anyone else do this?

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1 Comment

  1. Rochelle said,

    January 1, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Cameras can do crazy things. And I agree wholeheartedly that in order to look like yourself via the camera sometimes you have to be someone else entirely. When we’re doing pics for my blog I always imagine Tyra telling me all sorts of “modeling” things I should be doing. Sometimes it helps….

    And I know Bo really appreciates it when you let him practice taking pics with you 🙂


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