taking face and giving it

I've been wanting to share the lazy, lovely day I had with singer-songwriter Kim Harris for ages. We poked our way through the woods across the creek on one of the fall's last golden days, bringing with us a bag of Billie Holiday and soft things and sparkly things and we played while the last leaves drifted to the ground. Here, she's wearing a bit of 1940s fur that belonged to my grandmother, a prize curled up in an ancient hatbox I rummaged while looking for props in my parents' house.

Kim sang at this year's shed workshop along with Tara Thorne and Grassmarket. Her voice is as much silk as grit and caramel. And so to shoot her in the same light a few weeks later— with the stage bulb that had lit that night still fixed onto the tree that overhangs my house—made me feel wildly lucky. To know people who make music! Who have voices that sing songs and play at the same time! It's a miracle to me. I watch them with my jaw hanging open. And here they are, in my yard.

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I went to New Brunswick the other day to work with photographer Denis Duquette, and to confirm that it's as human to look through the lens baffled at the palpable nerves of every subject (really, everyone) as it is to be the subject and be clenching. He'll share his own recap of that day soon, and it's got me prickling all over.

As a photographer, you see beauty in everyone, and that is the truth. As the subject, you're sure your face looks as relaxed as the butt pucker of a hairless cat in a bath. Because damn. It's hard to look into glass, even when you are determined to not mind whatever you end up seeing. We'd all like to be bigger than ourselves like that.

In Denis' studio I used the words 'face like a butt pucker of a cat'. He used the words 'knuckle sandwich'. He knows as well as I do that every human being insists they're not photogenic, and every photographer smiles. I should know better by now, right? But it's hard to let someone else do it. Even when the person on the shutter is famed for his ability to put others at ease.

Look up, he says. To the left a touch. Now to the — STOP. Don't move.

I've said that before. I said it to Kim when I found little jewels in her eyes. The ones that I know are so much of her. It's a funny business, switching sides. One serves the other, I hope.