You Win Again, Camera
There’s a shitty phrase. As someone who’s face isn’t classically “camera-friendly”, I have to wonder just why in the fuck I’d want to be friends with the camera in the first place. Consider: The camera is a liar. Or, more appropriately, the camera’s marketing guy is a liar. The present-day camera, anyway, suffers from a serious case of identity confusion. It’s that whiny emo kid that just can’t be itself because everyone is making it be something else, but in this case it’s perfectly justified because people are making it into something it shouldn’t have to be. But more on that later.
You’re sold (in the old days, anyway, when the camera wasn’t too busy receiving sales calls for life coaching (Unrelated But Yet Related And Certainly Worth Exploring Sidebar, or “UBYRACWES” — which, in hindsight, looks eerily like “you be racist” — but we’ll roll with it because, well, fuck you, you privileged son of a bitch: The person making these spam calls to help coach your life is probably making $13./hr, working from a call center, and pushing some book on you that, while probably very vague in its own right, will never have you reaching any higher than the call center person, and you’ll be $49.99 deeper in the hole, rendering you unable to afford to send photos of the following), status updates regarding meaningless trifles in the life of some bastard you would never have a beer with and their lunch salad that was “off the chain” (truly a description better reserved for that “chicken” you had at the buffet, or calls that you’ll ignore anyway on some cheap box of mirrors that will capture your awesome life, and the memories and all of that nonsense. Yet the reality is, you’re going to find that many of your subjects (i.e. “children”, “relatives”, “drunken friends”, et.al.) will be less than “photogenic”, rendering many of your life’s memories in a less-than-flattering light.
In the old days, when you had to use film and have it processed and wait for the results of your shitty photos, there were no “on-the-spot-do-overs” or “let’s do that again’s” (ooh… UBYRACWES time; or more appropriately “SCRACWES” — or “Somewhat Closely Related And Certainly Worth Exploring Sidebar”— the “retake” photo. Remember these in school? “Hey, all of you less-than-average-looking/non-camera-friendly types, be in the Library next Wednesday during the middle of the Chemistry final that Mr. Arminstrinberger won’t let you out of for the ten minutes it would take to re-shoot your graduation photo now that – not mention saving some poor motherfucker with an airbrush and a bad sense of humor like fifteen minutes to fix in post the agony of having to look at – the remnants of that zit you tried to rush along, but at the time of the original photo looked like a terrifying cold sore has healed enough to hide with that flesh-toned Clearasil –matched, obviously to someone with far “whiter” genes, like what’s-her-face from that Regis Philbin show… something Gifford. Kathie Lee! – but that’s another UBYRACWES for another time – and the odd wind and rain-styled ‘do you were sporting that day to play some distraction”), you simply dealt the hand you were given because film was expensive and every shot COUNTED, and waiting for the magic elves in the FotoMat to develop them so you could drive up, get them in your hand and promptly throw them out along with half a weeks’ pay, learning the valuable life lesson that not everything is best printed on quality Kodak paper. The camera was an unforgiving prick, and it often coupled with a partner, the “unflattering flash cube”, which was like the shit-sandwich combo of the big doofus in third grade who would point out your flaws to everyone (especially if they involved your poverty, which in turn was a direct cause of you wearing uncool sneakers and hand-me-down Toughskins with weird little patches in the knees that the corners would slowly peel back on), with the added bonus of his Salacious B. Crumb-like sidekick adding that extra layer of bright light to help magnify the flaws, should anyone have missed them on the first click.
Thus, I am not “camera friendly” in either the classical sense (read as “homely”), or even the more esoteric sense (as in “hey, camera, thanks for all of the great memories! Let’s be pals!”). The camera can suck it. In fact, I hope that Hell for cameras is when they end up in the Colonsocopy room. I can bear witness to having hoped that on one or two occasions (making this another UBYRACWES, but with a Too Much Information twist) that the camera in use was the reincarnation of my seventh-grade photo (“How you like me NOW, camera?! See anything INTERESTING? Oh… you do. Fuck. You win again, camera.”). I do wonder, however, just why we have yet to apply technology to video in the way we have to sound. Consider just how many “singers” aren’t exactly “microphone friendly” without the aid of processing and Auto-Tune and all of that. I can see someone like myself being overlaid (and consequently “over LAID” if you catch my drift!) with a little computer enhancement, and starring on a TV show. Sort of like Jar-Jar Binks (I’m getting a bit excited for the new Star Wars movies. Deal with it.), but like 11.2% less endearing. And probably less pants during sweeps week, but I digress.
I’d suppose that people today have it better, camera friendship-wise, thanks to re-takes and Photoshop (and possibly due to the slowly dwindling eye broccoli class of folks — another UBYRACWES with serious Darwinian subject matter) have it far easier than our generation with the Instamatic and flash cubes, making it easier to be friends with the camera. After all, I never once got driving directions from a Minolta 35mm that were worth a shit, although I did manage to lift the Katakana for “Film Goes Here” from one and convince a girl to have that tattooed under the impression that it meant “beautiful blooming orchid” (adding another layer of irony, consider that this was done as a tramp stamp, and I’d bet that few things have bloomed in that vicinity even remotely resembling an orchid – a lactose intolerance on her behalf could provide at least half a chapter of laughs via one of those SCRACWES with a grand TMI kicker). I can only hope that one day she’s having a Colonoscopy and that Dr. Fong gets a little chuckle as that camera gets another taste of its own medicine, courtesy of her cave of unholy winds.