courage and glass


I'm going to be terrible at this. I don't know what to do. I don't like getting my picture taken. I've never done this before. I never like pictures of myself. I just don't photograph well. <CLICK>

Bon is too generous a subject to voice quite that much objection, but there's always that undercurrent. And those objections are so common that you can't even say that they render a subject ungenerous. Bon's generosity perhaps comes from the fact that she knows me, trusts me to know her. And so we accept some degree of hesitation as a given and we push past it, and eventually it dissipates. We play in the winter light of her windows and she's so patient -- with me as much as with herself.


More at Bon's.

Faced with a lens, everybody resists -- even if they've asked and paid me for a shoot. It's a phenomenon that I don't understand, from behind the camera. I may as well be one of those halloween dentists with the giant powerdrill and the blood-splattered white coat, the way that people step back and wince. But when I'm in charge, all I see is that she's in perfect light, or his eyes are all juicy next to that window, or her curls are the curls of my six-year-old fantasies. When I'm in charge -- self-portraits included -- I refuse to entertain those objections. Foolishness. Everybody looks beautiful and they're nuts to not know it and now shush and just look at me the way that you always do.

But then Krista, who works at Atlantic Photo Supply (my lab, mentors, and fire-lighters) sees me on Spring Garden Road and tells me that she's got a style blog, and she likes my jacket, and could she go and grab her camera? And everything in me clenches. I can't even tell you about all the clenching because there are some young people who might read this someday and I don't want them to find out about that kind of clenching because the children are our future. We're between the Roots store and the Starbucks and Krista transforms in front of me to the five-fingered man with the torture chamber underneath the tree with the secret door and if she presses the shutter, she's going to suck five years of my life out of my brain. That kind of thing. CLENCH.

The whole interaction took about four minutes, and three of those minutes were her trying to find her coat. But I stood there doing whatever's the opposite of basking in the way it felt and it felt like much longer. Contemplating the clench. Why is it so impossible to trust someone else? Are photographers the worst subjects?

I remember Ryan telling me to breathe. Breathe, Kate. Breathe. I didn't know how to stand. I didn't know what to do with my hands. Dammit, I was going to be cooler than this. I'd been so determined to give myself over the way that Bon did, breathing and not clenching. Not wasting Ryan's time. But then I also remember: whenever anyone else has a camera out in his presence, he buries his face in his drink or drops his napkin or contracts a five-minute-long case of Bird Flu and makes himself scarce. And he's nuts, because he's got a great face.

The roundabout point is that it's a constant labour to look courageously at glass and trust the person wielding it. Bon is my model and my teacher. Someday, I'm going to be like her. Someday.

Self-portraits are one thing -- you've got editorial and mechanical control. But how do you feel about the prospect of entrusting someone else with your portrait? Have you ever done it (beyond snapshots), or would it feel too indulgent or too strange to even seek it out? Why do you think that is? If you did, what kind of image would you want? What would you wear, and where would you be? Would it be a little theatrical or straight-up? Set the scene. I'm curious.