Friday, June 08, 2007

Jay through the view finder

What is a portrait supposed to convey? How a person actually looks or how the photographer sees that person inside of their head?

This is my friend Jay. He's the one I blog about so much that much to my chagrin, he's earned his very own tag in this journal. Normally I don't spell out full names in these blog posts, but I feel the absolute need to contribute at least one good picture of him to the land of the internets. No one deserves to only have really unflattering mug shots from work show up on Google image search (an no, he's not the publishing company CEO or the drag queen from Canada...). That's just my opinion. I guess I've also opened an ugly can of worms for any of his students or co-workers who have a secret crush on him...oh well. He's entitled to yell at me later, but somehow I don't think that'll happen. We'll see.

Anyway, when I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera during this impromptu portrait session I found myself feeling agitated that the image staring back at me through the lens didn't match the image I wanted to see. Thumbing through the previews I was getting increasingly flustered at the fact that none of the pics seemed to convey any of the patience, serenity, empathy or stoicism that my dear friend naturally possesses (notice I'm really careful not to use the word "sensitive.") I'm a tad arrogant about my portraiture skills, so you can imagine what I was going through.

Me: Damnit, Jay! Why do you look so fucking angry? You don't look like the "you" that's inside of my head...

Jay: It's the camera, babe. I really am that ugly...

Fucking hell.

What is so startling though is that when I loaded the files onto my computer and saw them in full size, I was a little struck by how revealing the photos were.

They say pictures don't lie. He also ain't ugly. The camera shows off his symmetric facial features, solid bone structure and intense blue eyes. What they don't tell you though is that pictures force you to see things that you've never noticed before. When you only choose to see the good parts, those "imperfections" core to a being's uniqueness get glossed over in memory: The furrowed brow, the fine lines etched around his eyes and mouth, moles etc.

I take portraits of my friends frequently and it never ceases to amaze me what I discover through the view finder. Maybe I'm just being to critcal or deep. I dunno, but those images often quietly remind me that we are all collectively getting older, some of us slowly worn down by emotional exhaustion and the responsibilities of day to day life thus causing us to become more aloof or jaded to protect ourselves...

There's that great line in Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington that I'm sure I've quoted before where Eugene is reflecting on George's state of mind and how his emotional growth will only come about by getting older:

at twenty-one or twenty-two so many things appear solid and permanent and terrible which forty sees are nothing but disappearing miasma. Forty can’t tell twenty about this; that’s the pity of it! Twenty can find out only by getting to be forty.

(Accidental hackneyed position. He's just kinda lost in thought during a cigarette break here as I was adjusting levels and taking test shots. Oddly, this pic looks the most like Jay age-wise)

I recall 22 was a lot prettier, but less complex. 29 is mature, but weathered a tad. He turns 30 in less than 10 days. What will 40 look like?

Labels: , , ,


Blogger dasMobius said...

This is really good photography (and I would expect no less from you anyhow)! You know, he really doesn't look angry at all to me. (Or maybe you didn't mean that about these particular pics?) Actually, when I saw these pictures, I immediately thought he looked like stoic, cool-mannered guy - basically exactly as you describe him (and that was before I even read that part)!

Saturday, June 09, 2007  
Blogger cchang said...

Thanks Shawn. Does he look like what you remember back in school? I was worried he'd come out looking angry since our topics of conversation weren't always chipper. Not that I mind, but environment and state of mind always seep into any photo. But yeah...stoic is definitely Jay. Pensive and freaking calm. I like how his eyes are intelligent and intense. I've had models in the past who just have this vacuous gaze going on and it's irritating even if they technically have a pretty face.

Saturday, June 09, 2007  
Blogger dasMobius said...

Actually he looks a lot different from how I remember him at school, but I can still recognize him.

Sunday, June 10, 2007  
Blogger heavy metal mom said...

I love those pictures - I think he looks contemplative not angry. Way better than fake smiles - more real.
Damn gorgeous man.

Monday, June 11, 2007  
Blogger cchang said...

Ya know, I haven't taken photos of you yet either, Monica!
I'm so happy my friends aren't floozies.

Monday, June 11, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home