A few years ago my husband captured this candid shot of me in profile, silhoutted against the living room window, so I’ve applied an online creative filter to it then greyscaled the resulting image to jazz it up a little and make it a bit more artistic and interesting to look at – I guess you could say it’s a genuine ‘profile pic’ of me! 🙂
Anyone recognise me from this portrait? My mum painted me in oils when I was about seven or so, which makes this painting around 48 years old… Mum was an art teacher before she got married, so being drawn or painted wasn’t a particularly unusual occurrence in our house!
I distinctly remember the pale yellow cotton party dress – sleeveless fitted pin-tucked bodice and a full gathered skirt with a net underskirt that itched – and I remember sitting for the portrait (on the kitchen stool, in the kitchen of our farm cottage, while mum painted). People have often assumed I was sulking, or in a bad mood, but even now this is my natural resting face.
I’ve always been surprisingly fond of this painting, although one thing I’ve never understood is why mum chose such a god-awful background colour to frame me with? It’s certainly not representative of our chaotic kitchen, and is not particuarly flattering to my pale hair and skin colouring, or the colour of my dress! 🙂
For the longest time I’ve wanted to be able to take particular pictures of specific people, not just general photographs that happen to have people in them. It’s just something I tend to feel really uncomfortable about, the whole idea of taking pictures of members of the public, and it’s a topic I’ve posted about before, here and here…
Today I was walking past a row of Victorian terraced houses not far from home and saw a workman inside tidying up around the edges of an empty window frame in a front bay window. I had my camera in my hand so was brave enough to take a shot, and then another…
And then he saw me, so I smiled at him and asked him to give me a smile for the camera, which he did… ta-da!
So this is my second deliberate environmental portrait of someone at work – the first was this young lad cooking paella at Borough Market a few weeks ago…
Although I did once accidentally manage to catch someone in their everyday work environment smiling for my camera – he just happened to look up and smile and wave as I clicked to take the shot of the whole scene, so that doesn’t really count as a proactive one-to-one encounter for me, as I didn’t actually have to interact with him to capture the shot. Here’s the aforementioned wave from a friendly shoe repair guy anyway…
OK, so maybe I’ll be nice to myself and allow it to count as three in total, as I did actually take the shot instead of mumbling an apology of sorts and running away in embarrasment… now to work up to finding a suitable subject for environmental portrait number four! 🙂
I am seriously not keen on staged or posed portrait photos of me – especially just me alone – even the thought of it leaves me feeling truly uncomfortable somewhere deep down inside, all squirmy and suddenly clammy all over. The thing is, there are plenty of photos of me as a young child, sometimes caught candidly, sometime posed, and I seemed to have been fine with it then, so I wonder when did my discomfort begin?
With realisation of the not-good-enough self, perhaps, an awareness of apparently not meeting the required standards in life? Or of not liking what I see, of being a disappointment? I’m not terribly keen on being in pics with other people, either, but at least I feel a bit more at ease with that – candid snapshots with me and my grandkids, for example, make wonderful memories to be treasured however fat/old/wrinkly I look. But just me on my own… no!
I’m quite clearly not one of the millennial generation, who all seem to think nothing of taking about a million selfies every day in a hundred different public places but always with the same moue mouth, and then posting the best shots online. I always feel far too self-conscious to appear so self-absorbed in public, and all too often it shows in the end result. My husband takes some good selfies of us together, but he knows he needs to catch us quickly or I start to look either stony-faced or forced-stare-y.
But today I was on my own in our local park, lying on my back on the short grass and just looking up at the vast hugeness of the sky, like I used to love to do as a kid. There were a few clouds floating about, but overall the sky was beautifully blue and I found myself thinking (amongst other things) about what the sky might start to look like if the ozone layer depletes too much more, or worse, disappears altogether… would we still have a sky at all?
Anyway, at that point in my random reverie I sat up and spontaneously decided to take a selfie or two, just for the sheer hell of it, and of course for posterity. Phone camera on, selfie mode on, and click, click, click, squinting a bit at the screen in the sunlight. A quick look… hmmm… then click, click, click again… enough. The mood passed as suddenly as it had arrived, and the sun chose that moment to hide behind the only huge grey cloud in the sky…
When I got home and looked more closely at what I’d taken, I was, as usual, disappointed. Six pics of me, two of which were OK-ish. There I was in glorious technicolour, double chin, no make-up, hair dishevelled in the soft warm breeze and eyes all wrinked up in the sunshine. God, these phone cameras pick up every flaw in your face. But then I thought – even young people sometimes use filters to make themselves look better, don’t they? So I searched online for something suitable to soften the rather harsh look and…
Ta-da! I still look like me, with my natural dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards look and fake photo smile. The rectangular image simply has a ‘sweet caramel’ haze on it and the square image a ‘soft lilac’ haze, both quite flattering, I find. Two passable al fresco self-portraits in summer, me at 55, in a blue dress against a blue background, on the day I wondered randomly about what colour the sky might be if the ozone layer evaporates… Let’s hope I never have to find out 🙂
I’m a keen amateur photographer, but really struggle with the reality of taking everyday pictures of people. I love the idea of taking up-front and honest environmental portraits of people in their own domain, or just capturing off-the-cuff candid shots of strangers while out and about. But sadly to be successful that really requires a level of personal interaction I feel truly uncomfortable with, so historically it’s not something I’ve ever done.
I’d love to have the faith to just go for it with a kind of spontaneous confidence that over-rides my natural hesitation and reserve. If only I didn’t feel so uncomfortable about making contact with people I’d like to photograph, feel so afraid if rejection and of failing, there are so many informal portraits I could take, capture a real snapshot of that person at that moment in time…
Of course, living in London necessarily there are often multiple people visibly present in my images, but usually taken en masse from a distance, like a crowd on the river cruiser or in the tube, or fewer individuals closer up but taken from behind so they are unaware of my presence, like in the above images from Borough Market. I’m always sadly disappointed in the results though, as my attempts at capturing people going about their daily lives are inevitably half-hearted and lack-lustre.
But yesterday I decided to be brave and take a chance on not being rudely rejected, so I finally approached a friendly, chatty stall-holder and asked with a smile to take his picture, and here is the result!
Ok, so it’s only one simple portrait of one person I’ve never met before, but for me it’s a bit of a breakthrough. Even if only temporarily, I overcame my fear, my caution, my overwhelming reticence, and I finally did it! 🙂
I’m just no good at taking pictures of people – not only planned portraits of people I know, but also up close and personal candid shots of strangers, too.
Photographing people in public causes me such a lot of anguish. Over they years I’ve tried to overcome my fear of intruding into some unknown someone’s privacy, of risking maybe causing offence, resulting in the risk of creating a scene, but even when I tell myself – look, just go for it, take the damned shot – my inevitable prevarication and hesitation means either the moment has gone, or I’ve completely lost my nerve, or I take a half-hearted quick snap that is poorly framed or out of focus or just plain wrong, and I immediately regret it.
A perfect example occurred yesterday – I was walking along the street, camera in hand, and as I passed by a cafe I saw just inside, beautifully framed by the window a couple sitting together chatting quite intimately, with a rectangular neon-style “Open” sign just above their heads to the right. I could have just lifted my camera up and taken a shot from where I was, but I felt so uncomfortable I just coudn’t do it. I know that with street photography it generally is a case of ‘you snooze, you lose’, but there’s something about that potential face to face, almost eyeball to eyeball encounter I really struggle with.
So instead I tend to settle for photographing people’s backs as they walk away, or if taken from in front I do try keeping my distance so they remain unrecognisably anonymous. Like this lady with her shopping trolley, crossing a pedestrian walkway over the main road and railway. I quite like this image, but I feel I would have liked the one not taken from the cafe even better…
Me after being out and about for a brisk walk in the freshest of fresh air on this bright and chilly autumn day, keeping my head warm and cosy in my new blue knitted bobble hat! And then some post-processing with a very colourful online art filter effect to help me smile even more 🙂