Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Leave Well Enough Alone

(Snapped on 6/21/11)

This entry follows the previous one in rapid succession, because for one thing - my kids are all out of town this week, and so a.) I've been busily replenishing my depleted self-portrait reserve, and b.) I have extra time to sit and write about the pics.. But besides that, my haste to post something more interesting (visual?) than the last (perhaps?) disappointing post - is akin to the urgency that had me in a panic to make up for the failed shoot that I spoke about the last time. 

I'm not gonna run-in with the cops the other week, wasn't as much of a wake-up call as it probably should've been - but rather a reminder of just how thrilling it can be to stage shoots that are a little more dangerous. Most of the self pics. that I've taken recently, happened after getting permission from the landowner. Now that's not to say they've been completely stress-free, but at least I wasn't worried about being arrested. 

The night after the close call though, I was itchin' more than ever - to snap some new pics.....and equally ramped-up to do somethin' sorta sketchy. My kids had been home with me that day, so it wasn't until they went with their dad that evening, that I began mulling over what type of pics. I should take. I don't remember what triggered the idea to hop the fence at the back property, and photograph myself on the railroad tracks - but as soon as it hit me - I was all over the concept!

A dear friend of mine recently sent me the link to this deLIcious photography blog - and while poring over each and every photo, I was filled with admiration and envy all at once. Evidently the images became tattooed on my brain, because after snapping a series of ho hum pics., while perched atop the train tracks that night - my poses gradually morphed from predictable and stale - into something somewhat more dancer-esque. I am not a trained dancer by any stretch of the imagination, and I wasn't consciously trying to mimic the movement of the dancers on that blog - but as soon as the photo above appeared on my computer screen - I knew exactly from where the inspiration had come...

(Snapped on 6/24/11)

Thing was though, there wasn't quite enough variation between any of the photos, to warrant devoting an entire blog entry to them. And on top of that - much as I was diggin' their serene quality, it told nothing of how literally painful it was to run barefoot up that steep, gravel bank in order to get into frame each time. For days, I was picking splinters of metal and bits of broken glass from outta my poor tootsies...and never before in my life have I had bruises on the bottoms of my feet. Ow. But the other thing that I wanted my readers to know, is how nerve-racking it was to be standing in plain sight of motorists on the roadways beside and below where I posed.

Soooo...I decided to go back and stage a shoot during the daytime, that way I'd have more pics. to write about on my blog - plus I also hoped it might give folks a better understanding of how difficult it was to work in that environment.

And hey - check it out! Trains actually do travel along this around 55 mph., I'd guess. Matter of fact, in the time that it took me to stage this second shoot, four different freight trains made welcome appearances. 

(Snapped on 6/24/11)

The nighttime shoot lasted for a scant 20 minutes, but produced one picture that I actually like. The daytime shoot however - dragged on for more than three hours...and yes - I did an ok job of documenting the conditions, but other than that  - the pictures fully SUCKED! Frick an A! I mean really?! Three hours of being nervous and abusing my feet - balancing on a rusty wire fence like a million times?! And yet again - sprinting barefoot over all of those rocks! And for what...literally nothin'. Like seriously? Where is the justice in that?!!!

(Snapped on 6/24/11)

The whole shoot felt cursed, but I knew that I was screwed - when I couldn't even eke out a decent cheesecake shot...*grrrumble*

(Snapped on 6/24/11)

I blamed the bleak results on a lot of different things; first the sun was too bright, but then it started to fade...and it was undeniably hard to become immersed in what I was doing, when I kept wondering if some passerby would sic the cops on me...oh yeah, and did I mention that this nonsense was absolute murder on my feet?! 

(Snapped on 6/25/11)

The most messed up part about this story, is that I returned the next day to try again.........Listen, you ain't gotta tell me I'm thick...cuz believe me - I already know.

I had wanted to see if the morning sun might make a difference, but unfortunately - it was overcast and grey that day. Drats. It was also a Saturday and lawd was traffic heavy. There is a railroad crossing about 20 feet from where I repeatedly splayed myself across the tracks, and after noticing the same truck pass by several times - I got the willies. I collected my junk, scuttled back over the fence, and waited in the woods to see if anything would happen. 

After a few minutes I thought, "Hmmmm...I wonder if I should try to sneak one or two topless pics., real quick..." and right at that moment, I heard a vehicle pull off the road and into the gravel on the other side of the tracks - and abruptly slam on his brakes. "Oh crap!" I bolted across my property and back towards my house, but before I had reached it - I heard a police car siren...until it shut off at what sounded to be - the very same place as where the other vehicle had stopped.

Now it could be that I'm just paranoid after my other close call...but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that both vehicles had come there to question the bikini-clad woman taking pictures of herself on the tracks...whatchu fank...

I'll be the first person to admit that I'm a hardheaded numbskull about certain things like...skulking where I probably ought not skulk. But in regards to my self-portraits? I think I may have learned a lesson. Sometimes it's probably best to leave well enough alone...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Close Call

(Snapped on 8/09/10)

Some of you may have seen this photo before - on either my Facebook or my flickr account, back when I was still social networking. And although it is admittedly about as old as time, and it may seem kind of random for me to post it here - now...there is a method to my madness. Lemme explain...

The image above represents the very first of my self-portrait shoots, that resulted in an altercation with Johnny Law. And because a cop showed up so soon after I'd gotten started, (and the fact that my camera refused to function properly) this was the only picture that I was able to snap on that sweltering, August afternoon - while from inside the jail, I could hear inmates stomping and chanting, and rhythmically clanging things together...presumably because of my antics. It was a gas!

Since then, I've had several, subsequent run-ins with the police, but for the last 6 months I've been lucky enough to have - for the most part - managed to stay out of trouble. Well peeps? I broke the streak a little over a week ago...and this time, I got busted before ever even setting up my camera...However - photos or not - I still believe that it's a story worthy of finding its place here in the Big Ugly annals...and because the image above was taken under similar circumstances - I'm hoping it'll serve as a suitable stand-in. 

A couple of Monday evening's ago, I took the advice of a friend - and drove over to a building in town, that's been boarded-up and vacant for years...a building that my friend and I both agreed - might be an interesting location for my pics.. 

After surveying the perimeter, the only ways that I could find to get inside the structure - were through a second floor, wide-open doorway (about 12' off the ground though - soooo...not gonna happen) the other option - a 10" - 12" gap under an immovable garage door, clear on the backside of the building. 

My little table wouldn't fit through the opening, so I left it outside - and squoze myself and my bagful of costumes and camera shiz, through the gap and into the almost entirely dark was CREEEEpy! I called out, "Is anyone in here?" to make sure there were no wild animals or squatters to contend with, and upon hearing no sound at all - I decided that the coast must be clear. Once my eyes began to adjust to the dark, and with the help of my 9v. flashlight - I familiarized myself with my surroundings, and although for some reason I was more nervous and shaky than usual - I was getting some good ideas for my pics.. 

I had settled on posing naked, up against the corrugated metal of a different garage door, in the dim spot of my flashlight, wearing a welder's mask that I'd found...and right about the time I brought a small wooden ladder over to set my camera on (in lieu of the little table), I heard this - "ka-thunkka-thunkka-thunkka-thunkka-thunk" sound - getting closer and closer and closer - until it finally stopped just outside of the garage door under which I had entered the building..."SHIT! What tha hell is that?!" In a panic I crammed all of my stuff back into my camera bag, and debated over whether I should hide? Or give myself up. Believing that somehow someone had found out that I was in there, I decided that to get caught hiding in the bowels of that cavernous, dark building - would be beyond instead - I poked my head out from under the garage door, and said to the man standing there by his truck, "I guess you're here because of me." 

Startled, he said, "Noooo? I'm here because I need to fix my truck." 

I muttered an expletive that rhymes with truck (along with a few others that don't) and sheepishly followed the man's orders to come out.

He was absolutely confounded by my explanation for being there, preferring to believe instead, that I'd stolen and/or damaged his property...which I vehemently (and honestly) denied. He asked to see my driver's license. I told him it was in my car (about a 5 minute walk from where we were). I was so relieved when we started to head over to the busy parking lot where I'd left my car. But just like that - he changed his mind and said, "On second thought, let's go inside and see what you did to my stuff." I refused, asserting, "I didn't do anything to your stuff. Plus, how do I know you won't try to do something to me?!" Becoming more angry and agitated, the man threatened, "Well then? I'm calling the police." I said, "Fine."

An officer arrived, did a quick background check on both of us (using my social security number, since I didn't have my license), gave me a fairly stern tongue-lashing for being so reckless and cited, "This easily could've been a rape call"...I couldn't help but wonder if the background check revealed something sinister about the man and his past...

A technicality prevented the officer from being able to charge me with trespassing, and after he begrudgingly told me that I was free to go - I thanked him and apologized, and beat feet outta there...before he had the chance to change his mind.

It was odd, because for as stoked as I was to have escaped not only in one piece, but also without a brand-spanking-new criminal record - I was totes bummed. Because for the first time that I can remember, I was going home with nary a picture from a shoot. Sure I was excited that I had a good story to tell...but without the pics. to prove it? The most crucial element seemed to be missing...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

About Face

(Snapped on 6/14/11)

All righty, so...I've decided to take on a little side project, and here's the plan: every so often, I shall snap self-portraits that will focus on my face only (well mostly) which I know may not sound like that big of a deal, but since it is something of a departure from how I typically approach my shoots, I'm looking at it as a way to try and cover new ground...while simultaneously addressing something that makes me uncomfortable.

Normally, I'm a stickler about making sure that my entire body makes it into each shot - and the reason for that is twofold:

1.) even though it can be terribly frustrating, I do kind of dig the challenge of getting my whole self into pics. where either space is limited and/or camera placement is tricky, or when movement is the theme of a shoot. I can't tell you how many otherwise nifty images I've junked, because my toes or my elbow or the top of my head were conspicuously cropped outta frame. And...

2.) my face (and my hair) are not exactly the physical features that I consider to be my best assets...and so by taking pictures where all of me is visible, there's a greater likelihood that viewers will be more apt to focus on something, anything other than my face (and my hair). Unless of course I've intentionally teased my mop into absolute oblivion, or globbed-on heavy, dark make-up - in order to mask or make fun of the things that I feel are problematic with my face (and my hair).

In many of the self pics. that please me the most, my face is tipped up or turned partially (or even completely) away from the camera. I'm hesitant to share photos of myself face-on, because by now I've learned that it's not my best angle, and at times I can look downright frightening.

For this - the inaugural installment of the About Face Project - I woke up, got out of bed, and went straight outside into the harsh morning light - to try my hand at these somewhat more macro self-portraits. I wore no make-up, and did absolutely nothing to try and remedy my extreme case of bedhead - and after 84 (predominantly foiled) attempts, I realized that this might be more difficult than I'd ever expected..and that maybe I didn't like the idea after all.

Although I did finally manage to get my face properly centered inside of the picture frame, and the important subject matter into the shots - I was horrified that each and every facial imperfection was magnified at such close range, and by the intense sunlight. I had to tweak the hell out of the image above before I felt comfortable posting it here on my blog...

Now it goes without saying - that I have obvious hang-ups with vanity, but good lord! I had no clue going into this, that confronting the issue head-on? Would be an even bigger hurdle to clear - than the logistics behind featuring my face as the focal point...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where the Truth Lies

(Snapped on 6/11/11)

I got the ideas for the self pics. in this entry, after my youngest daughter had her braces removed a couple of weeks ago. She left the orthodontists' office with a party bag full of popcorn, and bubble gum, and sticky, chewy candy - an assortment of things of which she'd been supposed to deprive herself, for as long as the braces remained on her teeth (ha). But along with all those other goodies, she was also given a bottle of soap bubbles and a bunch of brightly-colored, helium balloons...which I thought to be a very cute gesture, and which made it a more festive occasion than I ever woulda thunk it to have been. 

Naturally my daughter was more interested in the candy and gum and all of that stuff...I on the other hand, was partial to the cheerfulness of the balloons and the bubbles - and immediately began working out ways that I might use them to pepper my pics. with a sorely needed dash of pure mirth.

The timing was perfect, not only because I was curious to see if I could convincingly pull off a convivial shoot, in the midst of my sullen state of mind...but also because I was out of fresh ideas, since I'd been repeatedly unsuccessful at locking-in a location in which to stage the one shoot that I've been absolutely dying to do.

After placing phone calls to two dear friends, I obtained clearance to help myself to both of their residences and whatever of their possessions I needed to use, in order to make some "happy" pics. happen. If nothing else, it's hard to stay totally downtrodden - while on the receiving end of selfless and unconditional generosity. 

(You guys are the best, and I really do mean that)

The photo above is the first one I snapped, while trying to effectively emulate a carefree, little girl...and for the 70 frames that followed, things went completely downhill. In reviewing the photos as they appeared on my Mac, it became glaringly apparent that my 42 year old face, my boobs and my frighteningly dudely arms - had made the close-ups and frontal shots virtually was disturbing that I looked so freakish and weird in the bulk of the "little girl" pics..

(Snapped on 6/11/11)

I quickly switched gears (i.e. costumes, theme and attitude) and drove over to my other friends' home - where I banked on redeeming myself at the day's second shoot. I climbed up onto and leapt off of a 4 1/2 ft. high round bale, 40 frustrating times before finally capturing myself mid-air, with my face not too screwy, and my entire body visible - and with the hay bale completely outta frame. My camera battery died after 15 additional, disappointing attempts...but by then - I was relieved to be forced to havta quit. 

Generally, when a session (like this one) literally kicks my butt, my spirits are buoyed by an even greater sense of satisfaction than that which follows the less physically demanding photo shoots - regardless of the percentage of praiseworthy pics. procured. But my reward for the effort involved in snapping these pictures - was one lone photo that I didn't detest, and 4 days of stiff and sore muscles...phooey.

(Snapped on 6/12/11)

Right so...after going back home, and busying myself for the three hours that it took for my camera battery to charge - I returned to the hayfield and took the pictures that I wrote about in the previous post...and what I found very interesting, was how comparatively facile it was to get into character, and emote wrath, revenge and remorselessness - all sentiments that realistically, are as far removed from my current frame of mind as contentment and happiness are (contrary to what some of you out there might think).

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that even during my first full year as a blissful self-portrait artist, long before my recent emotional implosion - I was far more adroit at purveying morose and macabre images than I ever was at manifesting those which are merry...something that is really just so strange to me, like...I honestly don't understand it.

Nevertheless, utterly unimpressed with both of my botched balloon shoots, I was bound and determined to try one...last...time - to get the genuinely lighthearted snaps that I'd sought, this time with the help of my daughter's soap bubbles... do I feel about the soap bubble pics.? Three words come to mind: "emotionless", "vacant" and "BORRRrrring".

I dunno. I mean...I've said it before, and I believe that it's true - for the most part I'm a very happy person (that is of course - when life isn't handing me my ass on a platter). So why then, is it so terribly difficult to tap into my upbeat personality in my pics.? And on the flip side of that, why does delving into the dark side seem to come so easily to me? 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Complete 180

(All pics. snapped on 6/11/11) guys...I almost took the low road. But at the last minute I stopped myself from publishing the entry that I've been painstakingly perfecting, meticulously masterminding, fastidiously formulating and carefully constructing - since finishing the one before this.

I'd compiled hundreds of seething words, scathing accounts - of all that's made me listless, bitter and baleful of late...and as I reached the homestretch of the entry's completion - I had a change of heart and thought it best to bail.

Cathartic or not, everything I'd written was completely cringe-worthy...and none of what I had to say should be inflicted upon my readers...well, save 4 or 5 particular dickheads out there - but.........SEE?! There I go again! 

Bottom line is, I degrade my blog and myself when I use it as a platform to underhandedly exact revenge on nefarious tools...or vent about the disappointments that have become almost comically commonplace, these days. But more than anything - I can't stand it when I sound so pitiful and weak. This is supposed to be about my pictures, not my personal life, right? Right. And I think it'll be better for everyone concerned, if I stick with that m.o....if not forever, then at least until I get my head back on straight.

Thank you to the kind folks who let me stage two very different shoots - on two separate visits to their farm, this past weekend. The photos in this entry are from the second group of pics.. 

Unfortunately, the late evening sun had already slipped down behind the trees by the time I arrived back at their place to have another go. And after taking a series of underexposed shots, I caved and broke my cardinal rule to never use the flash. I was happy though, with the silhouettes that were produced later on - when I experimented with the flash turned back off.

By the time I burned the dress at the end of the shoot - practically everything I'd brought with me (including myself) was covered in the super sticky, corn syrup fake blood...ew. So yeah, I was exhausted and filthy when I left - but that's the good stuff, man...part of what makes self-portraiture so rewarding, and just one of the many reasons that I truly do love it.........(now if I can only remember to not forget that anymore...) 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Assumed Identity

(All pics. snapped on 6/02/11)

Considering the way that I behave now on the internet, it may surprise you to know that when I first started blogging back in July of '08 - I worried about what people in my community might think, say or do - should they discover that I...Lauralyn...mother of four...ex-wife of a prominent local businessman, and resident of their hyper-conservative, meddlesome, small town - had begun divulging in detail, my online dating indiscretions. I was so concerned about the potential backlash in fact, that I protected my true identity by hiding behind the name and the face of the beloved farm truck that my kids and I affectionately dubbed - Big Ugly.

9 months ago I said, "Goodbye" to blogging under a pseudonym (and a pseudo face), but just this week my children and I bid farewell to our favorite inanimate family member, a.k.a. The Big Ugly Blog's alter-ego. Although we welcomed the wad of cash that the nice man brought to the door, and placed firmly in mommy's greedy hands - not one of us was smiling when the real life Big Ugly was taken away, never to return to his spot in the yard by the garage. 

It may sound crazy, but the pit that I've had in my stomach for weeks, has been way worse since Big Ugly's been gone - especially since the poor thing's fate is undetermined. I definitely feel guilty (stupid?) for selling off one of my most prized possessions (the namesake of both of my blogs, for Pete's sakes!) to most likely become "parts" or even scrap. I dunno, the whole thing just feels sorta Jack and the Beanstalk-ish to me...but where Jack made a deal over the family's dairy cow, I instead traded my mascot...for just slightly more than a handful of beans. 

I do also think that some of the melancholia may stem from acknowledging the end of an era - i.e. those early blogging days when I was so unsure and still wet behind the ears - a time when my truck's fugly mug offered the obscurity which allowed me to begin blogging with brazen abandon...

"If it was so traumatic for you, then why did you sell it?" you may be understandably puzzling...Well? No point in mincing words here - I desperately needed the money.

So see? There's more contributing to my bout with malaise, than only malevolent douche-baggy guys...

I guess if there is a silver lining to this story - it would have to be this: I've wanted to do a seedy motel room shoot, for months now - a flashback to say...the 1950's or '60's? Maybe stage a playfully naughty romp with some imaginary beau, against a kitsch-rich backdrop, wearing a yummy, vintage teddy. Trouble is - I've never found a motel that met my criteria...which is really of no consequence, since I could've never afforded the room in the first place.

Agreed - the money that I got from the sale of my treasured truck, would've been more sensibly spent on gas or groceries or bills. But in case you hadn't noticed - I am not a sensible person. On the contrary, I'm oftentimes regrettably impulsive and reprehensibly self-indulgent, to boot...and so it made total sense to me to put a cut of the proceeds towards the motel room shoot of which I've been dreaming for so long. 

This shoot however, turned out to be almost nothing like the one I'd imagined. For starters - I absolutely hated the room. It was miniscule and cramped - making camera placement difficult and variation in my pics. somewhat limited. And to make things worse - the decor wasn't interesting enough to be considered cute or cheesy or anything besides just plain blah. But I'd paid my $45, by god...and I was determined to get my damn money's worth... 

It bears mentioning that I went into this shoot - feeling pretty much emotionally bankrupt. I was depending on the euphoria that typically follows a self-portraiture session - to lift my spirits for a little while, at least. But the only way that my time snapping pics. in this room, even remotely lived up to my expectations - was that it did feel legitimately "seedy"...which left me sick to my stomach for the rest of the day, and frankly? I haven't felt exactly "right" since.

Nowadays (as you know), I scoff at the derisive spin that accompanies being a candid, naked blogger living in the sticks. But there's one negative side-effect of this thing that I do, and lately extenuating circumstances have forced me to take it more large part because it has everything to do with my identity. 

It's becoming more and more apparent to me, that men in particular - see the women in my self-portraits and become convinced that they're the person that I actually am. But they're not. The subjects in my pics. are exaggerations of the real me, or figments of my wild imagination - sometimes complete fabrications. And so when I falter and let a curious man like that meet me in person - seems a few things will inevitably happen. First, he'll realize that without all the costumes and make-up and flattering camera angles - I'm pretty much a regular person (bummer)...but he's there, right? So why not go ahead and get that notch on his belt. After he's had his little joyride, he'll discard me like trash (cuz I guess that's what he takes me to be), and go back to his girlfriend or some younger more attractive, better option - offering no explanation for his sudden text, no phone call, no email - no nothin'...only silence in which to draw my own conclusions. Neato.


In reviewing the motel pics., and as I wrote and re-wrote this entry in my head over the week since I took them - several things have run through my mind repeatedly: 

1.) Enough with the self-pity already...buck the f*@# up, cowgirl! 

2.) Omit 3/4 of what I'm tempted to write. 

3.) I've done this to myself. I mean, did I really think that I could post sultry self-portraits on the web, and not expect a few guys to think (and act upon), "Yeah, I'd tap that."? 

4.) I've made my bed, and now I must lay in it. And what I mean by that is - if I'm gonna continue posting provocative images on the internet, Imma havta either deal with 'em, or learn how to filter out the men who approach me cuz they wanna pork the people in my pics....I can't be so naive and eager to trust, all the time. In other words - mama's gotta calibrate her dirt ball detector. 

5.) It's possible that because of my self-portraits and my blog, I may have rendered myself "un-datable".

6.) I never should've sold Big Ugly. 

And lastly... 

7.) Maybe there is more of the "real" me in my pictures, than I've let myself believe before now.