Forced Photography

The digital camera has changed the way we travel, and the way we record our everyday lives, and it can be hard sometimes to tell if it’s for better or worse.

Where before the ol’ film contraptions would be brought out only for special occasions, now it’s common for the lasses getting ready for a night on the lash to ask ‘are you bringing your camera?’ It’s as important a night-out decision as what to wear (‘are we going dresses or jeans and nice top ladies?’) whether the neg-5 temps justify a coat (such a hassle to coat-check) and whether to stash any prophylactics in the purse (wouldn’t wanna seem presumptuous!).

I am old enough to remember nearly ten years of owning a basic film camera (back in the days when someone would actually bother to hand-me-down a camera!), and the expense that this carried. Not only did it cost money and time to buy film and process it, there was also the added risk of the judgement of developers. Or perhaps thrill, depending on how you looked at it.

Photos were always especially rare and precious to me, coming from a pair of nitwit teenage parents who didn’t own a camera. I didn’t see a photo of myself under a year old until I was in my twenties, and I cried the Christmas Day when my family were going through old photo boxes and my Grandma came over to me and said quietly ‘this is you!’ Thank goodness for Grandma writing on the back of her photos, because there it was in her familiar script – Shapelle, 5 months.

I can picture that photo now more clearly than I can picture my adult face without looking in a mirror, so much did I study this beautiful creature. I have never loved myself so much as in that untarnished image, so much did that singular record of my haphazard early years mean to me.

The phenomenon of digital photography seems to have taken away some of this preciousness of photographs, but also given so much freedom to experiment. My own approach when traveling is to snap a few of each subject, and then do an edit on camera when I get the chance, and a proper edit later on the computer. It’s amazing how the pics taken when you’re blinded by sunlight and can’t make out the screen can end up absolute stunners when you upload them to compy.

Unfortunately for the rager in me, some tourists take this approach to travel snaps too far. Some cultural sterotypes have been increasingly confirmed for me on my jaunts about the globe. In Singapore the locals were rather disparaging of the tourists from China who would take a picture of ANYTHING, and LD and I saw this in action when a large group took about 15 variations of a group shot in front of the ‘luge this way’ sign on Santosa Island.

The Middle-Aged-American tourist in chinos and matching tracksuit jackets is known for another trait: recording every frame of any museum/gallery/tourist attraction in squinty, one-eyed detail, presumably to torture his friends and family back home with the unending narrative of ‘and now we have…’ LD has great desires to set up shop in the British Museum and survey such… tourists… with the aim to understand a) why they are doing it, b) who they intend to show it to, and c) how much they remember of it themselves.

Questions c) is the part that bothers me. I’m all for a great snap, and if I look like shite in front of the Tower of Pisa / Coliseum / Acropolis / etc ad nauseum, I’m gonna try for a couple of retakes. But at some point you’ve got to realise you just look like crap today, you don’t have to prove you were there, and you might as well actually look at the thing with your own eyes.

However, the aforementioned (and oft-mentioned) LD takes this to new extremes. Oops, I’ve mentioned her a few times didn’t I? Oops, this post is actually about her, surprise! This woman of many talents is the fellow Kiwi in London always referenced whenever I talk about zombies. She’s also the stubborn weirdo who refuses to be photographed on the majority of occasions. Aaaand, it’s also her birthday, which she basically refuses to celebrate.

Despite being the bearer of a pre-raphaelite je ne sais quoi and a gap Chaucer would write home about, LD hates to be photographed. Oh, unless she’s in front of something she cares about, in which case she’ll harrass me for 547 takes. The Coliseum was a dream and a nightmare, as my fellow Classics geek was unhappy with every snap and forced me into more than I could genuinely smile for. Luckily, this tormenting process stumbled upon a Life Trix that would help me forever after. Whenever the smile has faded, make a stupid sad face, have the photographer count down, and a natural smile will appear just in time, conjured by the ridiculous face you’ve been pulling in front of other tourists. Thank me later, awkward smilers.

Well for LD’s bday, I’d like to show off the effort I’ve gone to to capture her image, despite her stubborn protests. These are just a snippet from the last year that I’ve snapped unknowingly, and often gained abuse for, but I think all of them are interesting and beautiful nonethless!

Happy day of LD… I hope you still love me after this!

8 thoughts on “Forced Photography

  1. Lauren

    I genuinely love this.

    My only comment is, yes, taking photos of your night out is fun, but looking at other people’s drunken group photos on Facebook is a pet peev of mine. In fact serial offenders have been unfollowed because it annoys me so much. Especially if they are of the same group of people, week in, week out.

    1. Basketcase

      Oh yes.
      Anything where there are more than one or two basically identical photos is frustrating, and regular offenders on my FB friends list are often hidden (or relegated to “Aquaintances”) – whether its your night out partying, your dog or cat, or even your kid!
      “Here we all are pulling fish pouts at Bar A”
      “Here we all are pulling fish pouts at Bar B”
      Thanks for that, but we dont need you to share 75 photos from your latest night out where the only difference is that in one A is closer to the camera and in the next B is! Edit down to 8-10 reasonable photos and everyone will enjoy them more! 🙂

      1. shapelle Post author

        Ahhh yes, so frustrating, especially if the topic is not one of particular interest anyway. I can give a bit more leeway for 3 pics of the Eiffel Tower from diff angles/lighting/etc. but 3 pics of you in front of unidentifiable wall are gonna get a block. Though of course as I say this I’m mentally scanning my facebook pics for offenders!

    2. shapelle Post author

      Agreed – going out drinking in the same non-descript places in the same ‘pulling’ outfits does not warrant a photo series. Mix it up or leave the pics on the iphone!

  2. Pingback: Looking up again | 1in12million

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