Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Gonna Be a Long Winter

(Snapped on 12/10/10)

We got our first dusting of snow a few weeks ago - here in good ole Clarke County, Va. 'Twas a beautiful, albeit bittersweet reminder that winter was indeed approaching - whether I happened to like it or not...

I reckon I musta been totally absorbed in something I was doing on my Mac, cuz by the time I peeled my eyeballs off of the monitor, got up and looked out the window - the ground was already almost entirely covered with the white stuff. I was like, "Woah...wait a sec....where did all of that come from?!" However, once the initial excitement of witnessing the season's first snowfall wore off, I shuffled back to my desk, and resumed zoning out on whatever it was that had been captivating me so...

After a couple more hours vaporized (over what felt more to me like mere minutes) I jumped outta my chair with a start, "What in the world am I doing?! I need to get out there and take PICS.!" I paced around my studio, trying frantically to formulate a plan - what to wear, who to be, where to go...Ahhhhhh! I wasn't prepared for this at all! I had neglected to look beyond my immediate shoots, and consequently I'd whiffed on factoring the inevitable - snowfall - into my wintertime self-portraits.

Nothing was coming to me and the snowstorm was now tapering off, dagblastit! I went to the dress-up pile, and pulled out this and that, and eventually settled on a gown that I'd bought at a yard sale, waaay before I'd even met the man who I would one day marry. I don't recall ever trying the dress on before that day, but fortunately the derned thing did fit.

By the time I got myself all done up, the snow had long since quit falling, the wind had blown most of it off of the trees, and the little bit of sun that peeked out intermittently, had burned away everything except the little bit that still remained in the shade of trees and brush...For expediency's sake - I staged my pics. in just such a spot, right there in my own backyard...

There's really no story accompanying the pics. from this ^ shoot, other than that I kept pretending that I was looking up at a big, threatening ogre - Oh! And I did have to stop in the middle of the shoot and go inside for a bit to thaw my hands out under warm water, which clued me into the fact that winter weather was here to stay for awhile, and that my body's general rejection of the cold was going to force me to become more efficient with my (preferred) outdoor more leisurely 2 hours spent snapping a couple of hundred pics...bah.

(Snapped on 12/16/10)

About a week later, it snowed yet again, and THIS time I reacted more swiftly. The only problem was, my kids were suddenly released from school I had to table my original plan to shoot "on location" and was yet again relegated to my own boring yard - to snap my new batch of snowy self-portraits.

While my children reveled in an unexpected partial day off from school - alternately chillin' in front of the TV and running around the yard - I snuck away to tuck myself into a thicket at the edge of my property, taking pictures until my naked body balked at proceeding, and ultimately vetoed my mind's determination to keep going - in the prohibitively chilly 26 degree temperature...I shot for 12 total minutes, that was literally all that I could stand...

(Snapped on 12/21/10)

While messing around on Facebook one night, I noticed that roughly every third status update made some reference to the lunar eclipse which was to take place - way after my bedtime that night. Maybe if my kids had been with me, I would've made an effort to stay up late enough to witness the momentous occasion, but my kids were with their I didn't.

I did however, take advantage of the brilliant moonlight which bathed my yard in light so fantastic - that it cast shadows off of the trees and other objects below, and caused the spotty remains of our most recent snowfall - to virtually glow.

I had purchased the hideous nightgown, housecoat and velour slippers - with a very different shoot in mind, but for lack of a better alternative - I donned the ensemble and carried a lit candle for the impromptu winter equinox pics., instead. I fired off exactly 5 frames before my camera battery died. It was such a shame too, cuz 2 hours later when the battery was finally fully charged, the effect that the moon had on my yard, was not nearly as impressive as before.

I will say this though, those butt ugly $3 slippers from the thrift store were surprisingly effective at keeping my tootsies dry and warm on my many trips back and forth from camera to pose, whereby affording me a longer 2nd shoot than anticipated!

(Snapped on 12/26/10)

My kids left for a week long vacation with their dad, at around 11 a.m. on Christmas morning. This has been our tradition for all of the years that my ex and I have been apart. And each year, I keep distracted from otherwise certain melancholy wrought from my children's extended absence, by immersing myself in whatever my fixation at that time. This year (obviously) my obsession is self-portraiture and writing about it in my new blog - and so as soon as my ex and the kids had embarked on their annual island getaway, I sat down to my desk and wrote a new blog post which I offered as a holiday gift to my dear readers. 

Having just posted a brand new blog entry, meant that I'd freed myself up to go out and take some new pics. the following day - YIP! Under normal circumstances, I would not have hesitated to get my butt out the door to go shoot at my earliest convenience - but this day, I procrastinated. Not only was it overcast and blustery with flurries, the high temperature somewhere in the mid-20's - but I also had a plan...

The night that I'd gone out and taken those pics. wearing the red Christmas dress by the river, I nearly tripped over a deer carcass while toting my gear back to my car, and I knew right then that I just had to come back and feature those sad remains in some daytime self-portraits. 

I waited 'til late afternoon to head back to that spot where I'd seen the dead deer - the primary purpose of which was to incorporate the light of the lantern in that fleeting moment when the grey day would surrender to night, but can I just tell you something? I didn't even last until dusk...

There's this crazy thing that happens to me whenever a particular shoot really sucks me in, I become practically ravenous...studying each frame (best I can on my camera's tiny screen) making necessary adjustments to camera placement as well as my poses and positioning - determined to milk the situation for all it's worth. And you know what? That's fine...on indoor shoots or in warmer conditions. But on that bitter cold evening as I greedily photographed myself every which way that I could think of, alongside the hauntingly intriguing dead deer, eagerly awaiting the prime light of dusk - for the first time ever - I completely ignored my body. It wasn't until I could no longer set the timer button (which at first I thought was a technical malfunction) that I took a second to assess the situation - and what I realized was that I was suffering temporary loss of fine motor skills…and that was quite honestly kinda scary. I tried to warm my hands over the lantern (which didn't work) and after redirecting my brain to focus on myself and not the photos, I accepted that I'd unwittingly crossed my pain threshold. I hated that quitting seemed to be the only solution, especially since this time - I'd managed to subconsciously defer my low tolerance for the cold so that I could work diligently for the first time in eons.

As my hands slowly thawed out on the car ride home, the pain was so great that I cried. I'm not kidding! I absolutely bawled like a baby. Not only because my hands hurt so badly though, but because the stupid cold weather was crampin' my style...and winter was officially only 4 days in...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Seeing Red

(Snapped on 12/20/10)

Giving new meaning to the phrase, "Ho, Ho, Ho'!"

All right you guys, I tried - I swear I really did...I don't know if it was some sort of Christmas curse? Or whether it's because my general lack of enthusiasm for all things Christmas rivals my equally sourpuss sentiment towards birthdays (or perhaps simply because I detest the color red? Tough to say) but no matter the reason - the fact is that I had no luck at all getting the Christmas self-portraits that I'd so vividly imagined. And sadly the ones that I did wind up with - were definitely nothing to write home about... 

However! It is Christmas Day, and rather than show up here completely empty-handed, or hide under the covers until New Year's - I come to you today, bearing the pics. of the litter (relatively speaking) because they're literally all that I have to offer...

The bathtub photos were not conceived with Christmas even remotely in mind (at first). But over the course of four separate attempts (my record for most total shoots devoted to any singular idea, *guh*) I migrated from simple shots of myself taking a bath, surrounded by a fleet of rubber duckies - to a bubble bath with only one duck - next I goofed around with the soap-bubble beard - and after lookin' at those pics., the Santa thing happened. 

Although I experimented with artificial light (the one time that I tried this at night) and relied on sunlight only, during the three daytime shoots - I never managed to corral the exaggerated contrast of bright light and dark shadows, which wreaked havoc on this entire group of pics.. I even broke down and tinkered with my camera's ISO settings (hadn't ever done that before!) but after 230 + shots, and back-to-back-to-back-to-back clean-up efforts (to prevent the excessive amount of water that I repeatedly tracked onto the floor - from seeping through to the room below) my options were exhausted, as was I. I'd been spinning my wheels for too long...

(Snapped on 12/21/10)

I shan't boast about the fact that while I anxiously waited for quality shoots to materialize - I filled the downtime by relying on the very most cliche of Christmas themes: "girl tied up with a bow like a gift, waiting to be unwrapped under the Christmas tree".........*yawn*

Perhaps my punishment for daring to sink to such shallow depths, was that (just like with the dumb bathtub debacle) my inadequacy forced me to attack this concept on several different occasions (I wised up though, and quit after only three miserable tries this time) Once again, the war waged between me and my cam - and the impossibly confusing lighting situations - left me feeling pretty much ANYthing but "in the spirit". 

I have to give a metaphorical high-five though, to my favorite new gadget - the handy dandy Joby gorillapod! During the bathtub and the Christmas tree shoots, it enabled me to secure my Cybershot to a high ladder step, and angle it in a way that the dish with the tin foil would never have allowed. 

Seeeeee? There may just be hope for me yet! I tried something new, and I liked it!

(Snapped on 12/21/10)

Way back in December of 2001, just before my 4th child was born - I came across the most wonderful display of vintage Christmas yard ornaments, while walking (for exercise) through a suburban neighborhood. I hadn't thought about that impressive collection of hard plastic snowmen, and angels, and carolers, and Santas - since that winter when my youngest daughter was born...But this Christmas, while in the throes of my Christmas pics. panic - I had a flashback to the elaborate holiday vignette. 

I went to the house, for the first time in 9 years - delighted to discover that the homeowners still went to the trouble to do their yard up all fancy, the way that they had when I'd first seen it. I sat in my warm car writing a note to leave on the door (in the event that no one answered when I knocked) when I was startled by a woman's voice asking, "Hello? May I help you, Miss?" I screamed, "AAAAH! Jesus - you SCARED me!" which startled her!

Once I explained to the woman why I was there and what I do, we both laughed about my minor freak-out. I then told her about how I'd admired her holiday set-up years ago, and asked if she'd mind if I took some pictures there. Lucky for me - she was down wit it!  

(Snapped on 12/22/10)

On my last childless night before Christmas, in the midst of doodling on my computer in my warm(ish) studio, I was stricken with an urgent desire to brave the cold and take one last stab at getting some decent holiday pics. damnit. 

I had recently acquired a cheesy red, pageant gown, which I later adorned with a bunch of white feathers. My original plan for the dress fell through, and so I settled on a 10 minute drive to the river, in the hopes I might come across something...anything - to inspire me to put the holiday-specific dress to good use.

I had only been driving alongside the river for a couple of minutes, when I found the perfect place to pull my car off of the road, park it out of sight from possible passersby, and get to work. It was the most gloriously beautiful, (albeit freezing) first full night of winter - imaginable. The bright, full moon played peek-a-boo - from behind a swift-moving, temperamental, low cloud cover. To the naked eye the conditions could not have been more sublime...and yet somehow I still managed to completely blow the shoot...

When I asked my 12 year old daughter for her opinion - as to which of the photos from this shoot was the least bad - she replied with, "It's hard to tell what I'm even looking at, Mom"...I completely concurred, "Yeah...same here"...

(Snapped on 12/24/10)

Soooo...Christmas Eve rolls last big push to redeem myself by snapping some holiday self-portraits that don't SUCK, right? I packed up the car with my kids, and the baked apples and cookies that we'd offered to contribute to the dinner that we were about to attend...but I also threw in the red undies that I'd embellished with ruffles and bells, earlier in the week - just in case I could sneak away from the party for a minute (or 30) and sport 'em in some last ditch Christmas pics....

After dinner was through, and the sweets had been munched, my kids along with all of the other attendees - hunkered down in the living room to watch a movie. Now was my chance. I warned the host and hostess that I was going outside - to take some NSFW pics. on their porch and in their yard...heh.

I snatched a present from under their tree, went to the bathroom to change clothes, and then slunk outside to have one last go at it.

I don't know if it was the painfully extreme cold, or the threat of getting caught in the act by someone else's kid - but I only stayed out there for 20 minutes and 27 frames...

I just have to hope that this is some kind of unfortunate phase, and that maybe when the pressure of the holidays is behind me, I'll get back to the much preferred - free and easy approach to my pics..

Nevertheless, I'll quit my grousing - cuz the point of this post was not for me to whine and moan, but instead to wish you all - a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Suggested Reading

(Snapped on 12/08/10)

Now I realize that many of you wonderful readers out there, were recently directed to my blog for the very first time - thanks entirely to a fanTABulous article about my 10 second timer self-portraits, written by Haje Jan Kamps and posted on his entertaining and most informative photography site at Pixiq. But for my beloved regulars, who may not yet have had the chance to read this - my first ever online interview (YIP!) - I felt it would be remiss of me not to share the voila

I can't tell you how grateful I am to Haje, for not only affording me the opportunity to share my work with a much broader audience, but for also supporting, encouraging and standing by me as an artist, even in the midst of controversy surrounding the quality, content and value (or not) of my photos...The guy is an absolute gem, and I feel that I will always be indebted to him for his generosity and nurture.

Thank you so very much, Haje! I don't know if you've any idea how much everything you've done for me - means to me...

Now get over there you guys...Go check out the article! (Please aaaaaand Thank you!)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Birthday Sets

(Snapped on 12/07/10)

I turned 42 a couple of weeks ago (yeah...tell me about it) and leading up to the gruesome event (I know you might find this hard to believe but) it never once crossed my mind to do birthday-themed self-portraits. It wasn't until I started getting the most wonderful outpouring of well-wishes on Facebook (which included several goading remarks about birthday suit pics. and a request that I feature a cake with lit candles) that I decided to capitalize on the big, horrific day, by documenting and even (sort of) celebrating the anniversary of my birth - in front of and behind my little camera. 

Typically, I ignore my birthday on purpose. Each year I consider it a non-event, really - and I guess I sort of secretly wish that if I don't acknowledge it...maybe I won't actually get any older. But this year, I hadn't intentionally forgotten to recognize the dreaded day, nope. This year I was legitimately so distracted by something else, that I plumb forgot it was approaching.

Some of you guys might already be familiar with my tumultuous, on again-off again/love/hate relationship with reddit, but for those of you who are not - rather than go into elaborate detail about our brief and torrid affair - I'll try to quickly and concisely get you up to speed.

I got myself on reddit solely for the purpose of promoting my blog, end of story - and it worked! I immediately noticed a dramatic rise in daily hits to my blog, aaaaand...beCAUSE of that - I continued to link different blog entries to the main page, completely unaware that I was breaking the "spam" rules by consistently directing redditors to my blog only. It didn't take long for the moderators to get all up in my face, and read me the riot act for ignoring proper rediquette. I was stunned. But I shan't waste precious time here, itemizing the reasons for my shock and chagrin. If you're curious to know more, feel free to click on this link (it should get you square on the sitch):    My Big Ugly Blog isn't Spam, it's the OTHER Canned Meat...

Thanks to a savvy, kindhearted redditor who saw me in distress and came to my rescue by suggesting that I post my stuff to a photography sub-reddit - I found my way to the itookapicture page...which at first felt like the perfect place for me to submit photos, and link my blog (without being reprimanded for doing so) in the hopes that I might obtain helpful feedback...the key words here being, "at first".

(Snapped on 12/08/10)

Long before putting my pics. up on reddit, I was sharing them with a limited, but mostly encouraging audience on Facebook, and Twitter and a couple of dating sites. The reason I started taking self-portraits in the first place, was to ensure that I'd continue attracting a revolving lineup of men to my dating site profiles, as well as - more followers on Twitter. I was (at that time) in no way chasing any sort of premeditated artistic endeavor. It was nothing more than a seat-of-the-pants gimmick - concocted solely for the propulsion of my old Big Ugly Blog. 

My biggest challenge back then, was to effectively straddle the great divide between subtly sensual, tastefully done nude and semi-nude photographs - and sexually overt pornography...and the results were predominantly, soft-pornish, pin-up style pics.. My kids were and continue to be, the reason I've never gone too to speak. I still stick to the same policy that I instituted in the beginning - of engineering shoots which produce pictures that I feel completely comfortable showing to my kids, and this is the gauge that helps me determine if an image is appropriate for the internet...or not. 

From the outset, the desired end-result in following this silly, little whim - has not necessarily been to establish myself as some great photographer. I kinda feel like the true artistry in my work (assuming there actually is any) lies in the oftentimes labor-intensive preparation for and staging of the photos, as well as the different people that I become in my self-portraits, and/or the physical feats that I'm able to accomplish - all in a matter of seconds. I mean if you really think about it, by using the 10 second delay - I never actually click the shutter - the camera takes the picture by itself. Additionally, I've always kind of believed that using inexpensive equipment somehow disqualifies me from being taken seriously as a "real" photographer. The fact that I use a (basic point and shoot) camera to bring a vision to fruition, is to me - somewhat secondary to the work that goes into composing and posing for the pics.. It was not a deliberate decision on my part, to pick up photography - and my initial intention was certainly not to master photography as an art form. Bottom line, I needed pictures of myself and using a camera was the obvious means to that end. Plus, I had no other alternative than to call upon myself to be my own photographer. 

Early on, the whole thing was entirely about drawing attention to my blog, and the positive response that I got in the beginning (from folks who seemed genuinely entertained by my pics.) was ample enough reason to perpetuate the momentum. The more pictures I took, and the more elaborate my shoots became - the more I found myself craving masterminding my next shoot, and before I knew it...I was irrevocably hooked...Soon I realized that my obsession with dash self-portraiture, had far more to do with my own enjoyment, than with luring men to my dating sites (et al). 

What started out as an accidental hobby, has morphed into an all-consuming passion. Just like with any field of interest - be it sports or cooking or music or whatever - whenever a single activity becomes a focal point in someone's life, the desire to raise the bar for oneself is part of the natural progression in striving to graduate from novice to expert. I firmly believe that by immersing myself so wholeheartedly in my self-portraits, I have grown and continue to improve as an artist...but maybe in more of a general sense, than as a photographer specifically, at the moment. 

Becoming a technically perfect photographer - so far, has not topped my list of priorities. Matter of fact - the thought of fine-tuning my photography skills, was something that never even occurred to me until it became startlingly apparent that my lack of know-how was a major bone of contention with a few of the big dogs on ITAP. Although criticism of the quality (poor) and content (redundant) of my pics. was frequently harsh, I never let it bother me. I was actually thrilled to finally be getting a healthy dose of non-biased input from complete strangers, and - never one to miss an opportunity to standup for myself - I did my best to respond to each and every gripe about my photos. Don't get me wrong though, it wasn't all daggers and arrows of skepticism. I applaud the brave souls who gave me props for my pics. and defended my style despite backlash from disapproving redditors...OH! And the mods on ITAP, I just loved 'em! They were so much more pleasant than those grumps on the main page. They always set me straight (when need be) with a tone of kindness and patience, answered my (many, sometimes ridiculous) questions without condescension, and on top of that - they did not make me feel like a second rate artist... 

(Snapped on 12/07/10)

The fleeting but furious flurry of controversy over my self-portraits on the itookapicture page of reddit, was a terrible lot of fun while it lasted. The only small problem with it, was that I was spending so much time reading and responding to the seemingly endless string of comments, that my poor photo blog was left sorely neglected. I did however, manage to tear myself away from my computer to go out and do a few shoots, and it was then that the impact of aaaaalllll that derisive feedback, took a negative toll on my work.

I found myself second-guessing what would've traditionally been a sort of devil-may-care approach to my pics.. I was overanalyzing every aspect of my shoots, from costume and theme to cropping and contrast during the editing process, and finally - in selecting which pics. to even share with an increasingly more hostile audience on reddit. The feeling of joy that my shoots typically bring, had given way to trepidation and anxiety...

For me the whole thing came to a head, after I posted a photo from one of the (four different) birthday sets, and the overwhelming response was thumbs-down...It was dawning on me that itookapicture may not be the place for me, after all (duh). As if becoming this sort of irritating flea wasn't bad enough, the inundation of "helpful advice" had started to squelch my spontaneity, and simultaneously my overall enthusiasm flagged.

I decided to split when I realized that I was kinda ruining itookapicture for folks who had seniority over me on the page, and because the short amount of time that I'd spent there, was proving more detrimental than constructive. It's my personal opinion, that the folks at the top of the ITAP totem pole, are mostly interested in the technical aspects of photography, like: composition, equipment, editing - and that's fine! But you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that upgrading to high-end equipment and using a tripod and photoshop will absolutely benefit my pics.. The ITAP elite are clearly less concerned with giving credence to the creative process and the elbow grease that it sometimes requires - which is precisely where I place the greatest emphasis on what I personally do, and I believe that it's the very thing about my work, that resonates with my most devoted followers. The unrefined nature of my pics., although palatable to and appreciated by a respectable number of redditors, was like nails on a chalkboard to the MFA-in-Photography types, who had no tolerance for the likes of me, and what I gathered that they believed to be a perceived photographic sleight of hand. Ultimately I think that I did us all a favor, by putting an end to our misery.

My swan song submission to ITAP - was the cupcake photo above. Taking the picture had coincided with the shit storm that swelled after several of my submissions were met with disdain, and the instant that it appeared on my computer screen - I smiled. But my happiness was tempered with, "Oh lord...I could never post this on itookapicture!"...and that's when it hit finally made sense. The cupcake picture was not indicative of any semblance of progression in my work. There was nothing esoteric, no "deep" hidden meaning, and true to form - the quality was only so-so. But I liked its simplicity, and that it harkened back to the days of my earliest self-portraits - which made me realize that I really haven't been doing this very long. And although I'm stubborn and hard-headed and don't like being told what to do, I am still slowly improving. It also served as a reminder and made me appreciate, that there is a contingent of people out there, who don't abandon or berate me, just because my pictures aren't perfect. And better yet, they stand by me whether my tits show...or whether they do not.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Pleasure of Pain

(All pics. snapped on 11/30/10)

I guess the best way to explain why I do half of the crazy shit that I do, in order to try and produce compelling material for my blog - is that I am inexplicably addicted to the thrill that comes from stepping outside of a certain comfort zone. Case in point? These photos that I shot in and around the Shenendoah River - just a few weeks ago, on the last day of November...

If there's one thing in life that I absolutely hate with a passion - it's being cold. I honestly have no tolerance for it whatsoever, and the bummer is - I spend September through May each year, pretty much freezing my tuchus off...So why then (you may be wondering) would I do something as harebrained, as intentionally dunking my whole body in a frigid-ass river for the sake of a few silly photos? This might not come as much of a surprise, but I shall state the obvious anyway - my self-portraits actually incite me to do foolish things, and the collateral reward that comes from putting myself in situations that I never would, under normal circumstances - is a sense of accomplishment and immense self-satisfaction...

I kinda cheated a little in the beginning of this shoot, by wearing rubber boots and only wading around in a shallow part of the river. It was my way of gradually warming up (heh) to the idea of eventual, total submersion in the water. And although at this point I was (mostly) dry (until I went in a leetle too deep for the shot above) it was drizzly and damp, and that - coupled with the nippy air temp - was enough to make me just a wee bit uncomfortable.

Photographing myself under the bridges, in the blue slip and red boots - had been a snap, last-minute decision. Just before leaving the house (with the intention of taking only the wedding dress pics.) I thought, "Well shoot. May as well get as many different pics. as I can, while I'm somewhat mentally prepared to deal with the cold" 

The blue slip pics. were just fluff though, and a not so thinly-veiled means by which to put off the inevitable. After about an hour of blatant stalling, I accepted that I had to either fish or cut bait. I hopped in my car, blasted the heat, and drove to the spot where I hoped that momentarily sacrificing my sanity, might result in a tour de force photo... 

Can I just tell you guys something? That freaking water was at a totally incomprehensible level of cold. The moment that I lay face down in the river, and for the endurance of the time that I spent trying to hold still until the shutter clicked - it felt like my body from my face to my toes - had been punched by a giant or something...Each time I lifted my head from the water - I couldn't stifle involuntarily shrieking, "Oh my GOD that's cold!" I only stopped repetitiously chanting things like, "I can't believe how cold that is, I can't believe how cold that is" for those few seconds that I was face-down in the water. And then the instant the picture had been snapped, I would pop up as quickly as I could, trip and sometimes stumble over the heavy, wet dress while trying desperately to scramble out of the river, and back to the shore for a brief respite...before setting the timer, and doing it again. 

This was the one shoot out of all of them so far, where I was incredibly happy to have ONLY 10 seconds during which to get in position and stay that way before my time was up...and quite frankly - each attempt felt a helluva lot longer than 10 seconds. However, the rippling in the water caused by getting my body into place, would've dissipated a bit - if I'd had just a few more seconds during which to get completely still. To me, the ripples detract from the face-down shots, soooo......sadly? That highly sought-after tour de force photo - continues to elude me.

Oh! And to answer the question that some of you might be silently pondering, "Why a wedding dress in a river? Like, what's the point?" all I can say about that is this - after having the dress in my possession for about a week, and repeatedly walking past where it hung in my living room, I simply could not figure out how to incorporate it in my pics.. And then bam! I woke up one morning and the river thing came to me - for no rhyme or reason at all...

You see, when frequenting my local thrift shops, in search of garments to inspire new self-portraits - I always stalk the wedding dress sections. Usually I walk away empty-handed, but the day that I happened upon this little lovely (even though it was entirely out of my price range) I knew right away that I couldn't leave without it. For one thing, it was the right size for me (so no clothespins to complicate a potential shoot) and the quality of the dress was above average per the typical selection - pure white raw silk and minimally adorned, which I prefer...My oldest daughter was with me when I splurged on the dress, and when the lady at the register asked, "Oh Honey, are you getting married?" my daughter and I both snickered and shot each other a knowing glance as if to say, "Shyeah right! Like that's ever gonna happen" Turns out I'm not the only one who'll likely never walk down the aisle again...after the abuse the dress suffered in the river and on its muddy banks, the poor thing was fairly well ruined...

Naturally, I couldn't wrap the river shoot before snapping a few pics. of myself in the water completely nude - just so I could say that I'd done it? Perhaps. But the really mental part was, for as much as it hurt (and believe me - it was agonizingly painful!) some sick side of me still very much enjoyed it...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Looks Can Be Deceiving

All right, glancing over the images below, plucked from three recent, back-to-back self-portrait sessions - you might have a guess as to which was the easiest to snap...yeah? 

(Snapped on 11/28/10)

I wish I had some way of knowing what goes through people's minds when they look at this pic. (all of my pictures, for that matter) Of course, I hope that they're thinking, "Damn! How'd she do that?!" 

Truth be told though, this shoot was ridiculously easy...I shan't disclose the secret behind how I was able to clamber to the roof and then dangle from it in only 10 seconds. What I will tell you is this - I did not use a ladder, and the only "hard" part was being outside on a chilly autumn evening, wearing nothing but a skimpy neglige...

(Snapped on 11/29/10)

Ok then, so is this the photo that represents the most difficult shoot out of the three? I dunno, maybe...whadda you think? 

Nope, it isn't. Taking a header down a set of stairs is old hat to me, in fact before I fell in love with dash photography, simply put - I just really loved to fall, period. Hurling myself down random carpeted stairways was - for a brief period of time - my signature stunt...

My 10 year old son was the one who got me started on the whole thing. The first time he did it was in our house on a short set of wooden (ouch) stairs. I was frantically trying to get all four kids out the door, into the car and to school on time (for once) when all of a sudden, the crazy little bugger surprised his sisters and me by making the most terrific racket! On purpose, he'd tumbled down the steps, but what made it even more hilarious - was that he did it while using a pair of crutches. I don't mighta had to have been there to appreciate how funny it was. But I thought I'd die, I was laughing so hard (and I couldn't wait to try it myself!)

My favorite place to practice this completely useless skill, was at a downtown bar which has not one - but two fabulous sets of carpeted stairs. But after being asked by the bouncers (on two separate occasions) to, "Please don't do that anymore" - the gig was up. Forever after that, it didn't matter who was working the door, all of those guys had my number. Each time they stopped me to check my i.d. - they warned that I'd be asked to leave if I fell down the stairs (It was funny though, because the waitresses would enthusiastically ask, "So! You gonna do the "stairs" thing tonight?") 

After breaking a bone in my knee last summer, all stair-falling was suspended indefinitely. But my knee is (mostly) healed now, and so a few weeks ago I got the idea to resurrect the hobby for a photo shoot. The first place I went to ask for permission, was that bar with my most favorite stairs. I figured enough time had passed, that surely they'd forgotten me - and they had, but it didn't really matter. The bartender (still a bit confused by what it was that I wanted to do, or rather - why I wanted to do such a thing) kindly went and asked the owner if it would be all right, but returned with a non-negotiable verdict of, "No"

So now what? I racked my brain to come up with people I knew who had carpeted stairs in their homes, and as luck would have it - the first person I asked, agreed to let me use hers. (Thanks, K!)

I used the burst mode on my camera to capture each take (from start to finish) in five separate frames, but quit altogether after falling 5 times. The series of pictures all looked identical since each sequence of pics. was virtually identical. I decided - that to continue would be utterly pointless...

Despite the fact that across the board, this entire series of pics. lacked excitement in composition, color and content - I included one in this entry as an example of a shoot that some might consider tough to pull off. 

The pictures weren't great, and I got juuust a touch of rug burn, but logistically - this shoot was a breeze... 

I'm not saying that I've given up on the idea of photographing myself falling, but it seems to translate much better in video...

(Taken on 6/26/09)

(Snapped on 11/28/10)

The "stair-fall" shoot wasn't difficult, however the pictures left something to be desired. But instead of dwelling on my disappointment, I just filed 'em away and moved on. The scarecrow shoot on the other hand, thoroughly pissed me seriously - it made my blood boil, and still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. You're probably thinking, "Looks easy enough, so what in the world's the big deal?"...that's exactly what I thought at first...

The thing that got me so torqued, was dealing with the stick that I'd threaded through the sleeves. Trying to set the timer with the shirt all the way on, proved to be nearly impossible - since the stick prevented me from bending my arms. But if I left one arm out so I could set the timer (without knocking the derned thing off the table) when I did get my free arm into the sleeve in enough time to then strike some half-assed pose within the 10 seconds, seemed like something else always went wrong. Either the collar would get turned under, or my t-shirt would hike up, and there was no way for me to fix it before the shutter clicked...grrrrr...Adding insult to injury - that stupid, bloody hat (which was way too big for me, thus only loosely resting on my head) would fall to the ground while I was setting the timer or just as I was getting into position. I can't tell you how much time or how many frames I musta wasted - getting in and out of the shirt, so I could put the dagblasted hat back on my head.

Needless to say, out of the three featured here - the scarecrow shoot takes the prize as the most infuriating, frustrating and futile. The serene quality of the photo belies the inner (and outer) turmoil that - after a paltry 20 tries - got the best of me. I chucked that fecking stick into the woods as hard as I could, collected the rest of my things, and (angrily muttering expletives) stomped back across the corn field to my car.

(Snapped 8/08/10)

One of the reasons I love doing my self-portraits, is the enormous sense of sheer joy that accompanies each shoot. The scarecrow fiasco was an exception, but it wasn't a completely isolated incident... There's only been one other time during the last nine months, that a seemingly simple premise left me defeated...

I had gotten it in my mind that I wanted to do something in a ball gown, possibly alongside a rusted-out old car or truck? But before fleshing out the deets, first and foremost - I had to get the perfect dress for the shoot. I knew there was no way I'd find the exact dress that I'd been picturing, but the very next Saturday, after stopping in to the first thrift store on my list - I did indeed find - the exact dress that I'd been picturing! I swear, you guys - the froofy, blue ball gown in the photo above - is precisely the dress that I had in mind. From the vivid shade of blue, to the velvet bodice and the beadwork and the multi-layered tulle was seriously too good to be true. Never mind the fact that it was like 10 sizes too big - I could work around that (or so I thought...)

I made arrangements with an acquaintance to stage pics. with my prized gown, and a 1940's International truck that had been abandoned in his woods...What I didn't know until I arrived on his farm, was that the truck was several acres away, and the only way to get there was on foot...It was 100 + degrees that day, and the thought of toting the dress (which weighs an absolute TON) plus all my other crap, did not appeal. So. I asked if it would be ok if I did my pics. by his silos, which were close to where I'd parked my car - and he was like, "Yeah, take 'em anywhere you want"...*phew*

I'd arrived wearing shorts, a tank top and flip flops, and kept all of that on until I'd hopped the fence and was behind the silos, where I changed into my heels and the dress. I'd never bothered to try the dress on beforehand, but knowing that it was several sizes too big, I'd brought along a baggie full of clothespins...and here, my dear friends - is where the whole thing fell apart...

When I finally put the dress on, I realized that it simply would not stay up, unless I pinched about 4 inches of the thick velvet fabric (heavily adorned with glass beads, let's not forget) - together and fastened it securely with the clothespins. I never dreamt such a thing could be so difficult, but it was. The dress was heavy and hot, as was the air temp - and after about a gazillion failed attempts to pin the thick wad of fabric in the back, I was sweating like a muthuh, my make-up was running, I was cussing and I started to cry...I had reached a level of furious, that I honestly don't recollect ever reaching before while working on a self-portrait shoot.

I let the tantrum run its course, after which I did manage to clamp a few clothespins to the dress. (Little did I know at the time, but the clothespins were completely visible in at least 50% of the pics. - see above) 

All the fun wasn't over yet, though. Each time I dragged that massive monstrosity of a dress, back and forth between camera and pose - I'd have to quickly remove thorny locust branches which had gotten tangled in the tulle, and shake out the grasshoppers that were trapped in the skirt, while those horrible, ill-fitting heels dug deep, oozy craters into my feet. The whole thing just sucked, and I wanted it to be over.

Eventually, I couldn't take another minute of the misery, and in a huff I packed up my shit and went back was the only shoot outof all of 'em so far, that I can honestly say that I hated...that flipping blue gown nearly did me in...

I know better than to take any shoot for granted, I find it's best to be prepared for the worst - no matter how innocuous a concept might seem. Because as the scarecrow and the blue gown shoots have undeniably proven - you can't judge a book by its cover...