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Picture Imperfect

August 1, 2013

If you’ve ever seen any pictures taken back in the day when photography was still fresh, new, cutting edge technology (grainy as hell and black and white, but still cutting edge), you’ll notice they all have one thing in common. The people always have this blank, expressionless, wide eyed stare going on, which leads to several conclusions—our ancestors were all psychotic or the “good ol’ days” weren’t so good. Actually, back then a photo took forever to take and was serious business. “Photo ops” were few and far between, so when the opportunity did arise it was an intense endeavor.

Nowadays, with all our technical advancements, what was once a rare commodity is now a “digital” dime-a-dozen. Quantity has definitely replaced quality. Now most of us “cheese” it up when a camera is pointed in our direction. Big smile, big smile, and if the smiles not just right or if someone blinks, we erase it and simply take another. Kinda makes you wonder if our ancestors could see the pictures we take in modern day if they would think us all grinning loonies.

Not only has the way pictures are taken evolved but the idea of what makes a good picture has certainly changed over the years as well. You have to wonder though if any of the pictures taken, good or bad, then or now are real. Did our long dead relatives really go around blank faced and dressed like they’re going to a funeral? Do we today, constantly go around with lunatic smiles on our faces? The “real” pictures, not to mention the best ones, are the ones we don’t know are being taken or when we know and involuntarily pose in our true, natural reality. These are the photos that show us as we really are. Whereas with posed for pics we see what was going on around us, with real pictures, we see what was going on within us.

It is important to realize that pictures not only catch a moment but capture the emotions of the moment as well.

Look through your own photos (if you have no photos well…um just put this down and go cry). The best example of emotions caught on film are ones taken at a child’s b-day party. Eliminate all the “say cheese” and “hold the present up for the camera” pics. Look instead for the one where the kid is actually trying to unwrap the gift. There’s no stupid smile on that little face; that is a look of pure wonder and grim determination. Look at the other kids on the sidelines, look closely. There is wonderment there too, but it is mixed with jealousy and envy at the fact that they’re not the one opening a gift. Don’t tell me that kids are innocent and don’t feel those emotions…that kid on the left is trying to get his grimy little paws in there.

Here’s something a little harder—look at the “real” photos of you. What was going on with you when they were taken? What were you thinking? How were you feeling? Are you naked? Will they be posted on the internet? Can you pay for… (Wait lost track for a minute there). Seriously though look at you closely. First thing to note is your appearance, how and if it has changed since the photo was taken. If you’ve changed dramatically, it may be that you weren’t too happy with yourself when the picture was taken (or aren’t to happy with yourself now). Look at your expression; what is running through your head to put that particular look on your face? Sometimes photos which can easily be perceived as a happy moment by others hold a darker or simply different meaning for the photo’s subject. Some haunt us because of the true context we hide behind a quickly flashed smile or in the contents of a candid photo.

Perhaps someday we can all look at our “real” photos and come to terms with the emotions they carry. These are after all, our emotions captured on film and we will eventually have to develop and deal with our two-dimensional selves. On the other hand maybe it’s best just to look and not remember—photo albums are more fun that way.

I welcome all questions, comments, and column suggestions, via Focus, or e-mail me at my new email address–

Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya.



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