Monday, April 30, 2012

Picture This

Having a GREAT hair day in Dublin!
After a friend posted gorgeous photographs from her trip to Alaska, she stated that she was eager to see my photographs of our recent trip to Dublin.  The thing is, there’s only about a dozen or so, and that includes the photos of a bound pork leg and wax figures of Bob Geldof and Liam Neesom, pictures that serve no purpose except for momentary amusement.  I’m awful about taking pictures.  I generally don’t like being in photographs but I’m also bad about recording events with photography. 

It’s not that I don’t want to remember moments or locations, but at the times when I should be “preserving the moment,” I’m usually so wrapped up in participating that I forget.  For example, while we visited the Dead Zoo (an excellent name for the Dublin Natural History museum), there were various scientists posted throughout the museum offering hands on displays.  One scientist brought giant bugs.  While I wasn’t about to hold the tarantula, I did hold the giant millipede.  Later, it occurred to me that people usually photograph moments like that.  I’m not sure if it’s to celebrate bravery or just to preserve an encounter with a rare creature.  Of course, it was too late at that point.  Still, I’m not likely to forget the sensation of a foot long creature’s hundreds of legs creeping along my hands and arms.  But later, I photographed a shop display of meerkat figurines dressed in various costumes.  They weren’t even taxidermied meerkats, but they were cute.

Generally, there are three items I deem photo-worthy:  architecture, plants, and animals.  People rarely make an intentional appearance.  My husband only appears in one photograph from our trip.  I don’t appear in any.  There is, however, a photograph of a knife and fork burnt into a tabletop at Avoca, something I thought would be an interesting idea should I decide to re-do our kitchen in Irish country chic.  There’s also a photograph of the front counter for the same reason.  Somewhere, there’s a similar photo of Balthazar’s counter in New York, also as inspiration should I ever get around to redoing our kitchen.  But there aren’t any pictures of us on any of our New York visits, although I’m pretty sure I was there.

Another reason why I don’t take many photographs is that I don’t know what to do with them afterwards.  I’m not big on hanging personal photographs on the wall.  I have some photo albums, but the last time I organized my photos in an album was for our first trip to Ireland 15 years ago.    Even with digital technology, out of roughly 200 photos, I’ve only bothered to print maybe 10 images and of those, only perhaps 5 are framed, three of which were from my sister’s wedding.

I do like photographs, per se.  I post a photograph almost daily on my private FaceBook page that I call “Beauty of the Day,” which mostly consists of flowers and leaves that I encounter while walking my dogs, some of which appear in the Gallery portion of this blog.  I view my photographs as a form of artistic expression, like painting or music rather than a way to record a memory.  And then there are the occasional forays into “photo as proof,” as if Photoshop doesn’t exist.  But I’ve pretty much given up on photos of a personal nature.  Even photos with friends.  I’m incredibly un-photogenic.  Back in the day when one actually had still photos taken of their wedding, my sister raved about our photographer because he was able to get at least a few photos with my mouth shut and both of my eyes open.  In group photos, I’ve taken to positioning myself on the ends so that I’m easily cropped out, thereby preserving the moment and esthetic appeal for the rest of the group.  Thank goodness for video still shots.  That’s how I manage the self-portraits taken for this blog.  I film five or ten minutes of footage, and no joking, I go through it frame by frame to get what appears “in print” – and sometimes things don’t appear, which are the entries without portraits.

I think part of the reason why many people take photographs is to share them with the next generation, to prove to them that indeed we were young at one point and led a rather interesting life pre-parenthood.  It’s one of the things we missed with my mother.  Her family destroyed their family photos because they feared repercussions during World War II, so I’ve never seen my mother as a child.  The oldest photo we have of her was taken in her 20s, when she was a model, and she looked hot.  But when she regales tales of her childhood, I can only imagine what she and the places looked like.  My nephews and nieces have grown up seeing photographs of their parents at all ages and laugh about their fashion choices and how they’ve lived their lives.  But my husband and I don’t have children so photographic documentation is mostly for our own amusement and nostalgia, and even so, we never look through old photo albums together.
Meerkats in Dublin - at least they're not as creepy
 as the tea party kittens in Potter's Museum of Curiosities.

Still, I’ve one upped an idea from Nicholas Sparks’ sappy story, The Notebook.  I’ve started putting together scrapbooks of pretty pictures cut out from magazines and postcards.  I figure, if I ever get Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, my husband or maybe even my nieces and nephews could just grab one of those scrapbooks as fits their fancy for the day.  We can flip through the pages together in the convalescent home and they can tell me about my life as one of King Henry VIII’s wives, or how I lived as a courtesan in the demimonde of 19th Century Paris.  I also have one as a noted member of The Algonquin Table.  How would I know the difference?  It certainly would make for an intriguing past, and no one would have to worry about getting the story “right,” not to mention the pictures are lovely.  Why not? Over time our memories of the origins of actual photos fade anyway, and frankly a picture of the Tower of London, where I awaited my execution makes much more sense than a photo of a meerkat figurine display in Dublin shop.

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