A very very long time ago, I was a highschool student doing highschool student things. We had a friend that always had pot and my sister and I figured we’d see what all the hype was about. That’s what high schooler’s do and believe me when I tell you we were VERY good highschoolers. For example, once we pushed our car a block down the road past curfew. My parents were out-of-town and our curfew was 11 p.m., but we really wanted Taco Bell and were feeling rebellious. We were so sure that our 80 year-old neighbor was awake at 10:37 p.m. So we pushed an enormous Bonneville a block out of her sight. We were home by 11:17 p.m. with giant Diet Cokes and Mexican Pizzas. Yes, we were good kids.
Anyways… We decided to get high. Someone was driving (because we weren’t really stupid), so we lit up in the car. First times are never fantastic, but it was what it was.
My sister decided to write about it in her diary because she wasn’t that smart (Sorry, Sis. I love you). I learned a long time prior that Ma read our diaries because they were in her house and we were her kids. I kept no evidence of my minor grievances or grade school crushes. My sister wrote all about our night and my parents found it.
They came up with an elaborate story. They had to confront her alone because I’d lie and they’d have to come clean about their snooping. Told her that my dad was dropping off chickens (I’ve NEVER known my dad to deliver chickens) with one of the farmers who happened to be an undercover DEA prior to donning overalls covered in chicken shit.* She fell for this story hard. And ran to warn me at work. “They made me swear on the nieces’ lives!!” she cried in the chain restaurant’s lobby. “That doesn’t really mean anything?! It didn’t even smell. WHY would you admit it?!” I plead as I peeled off my apron ready to take my punishment.
My parents were so proud that they went to her first. When I walked in the door, they smugly said “We knew we had to go to her first. You would have sworn all over everyone’s life.” Please understand if I lied about anything prior it was very innocent things (cleaning up dog poop, not doing the dishes because of XYZ, etc). Twenty years later, they still take a special delight in their triumph. Fine… They can have it. Because I would have lied and gotten away with it.**
Funny thing is I’m still lying. Most photographers do. Anyone that ever tells you, “I ONLY shoot real scenes. I ONLY create authentic images” is lying through their smug little creative teeth. It’s impossible. There’s always a tweak. A nudge. A bribe. A color correction and cloning job. A setup. A toy flung out of the frame. An exasperated, “I guess that will do…”
Trust me. I’ve created a following on “Being Real” and “Being Honest” Yup, for the most part y’all get me: hairy legs, words like: Twat and Cunt roll off my tongue without a worry of offense taken, depression, funks, cereal for dinner, non-maternal feeling rants… Have I told you that most of my underwear is full of holes? Not lace holes. Cotton holes.
Most of my images are from real events. I’m not specializing in portraits or fine art set-ups. I specialize in real life. But I tweak it when I need to. Sometimes I ask for them to do it again. Turn towards the light. Sit and pretend like you love your brother. Reach a little higher and move your chin towards the milk gallon. It’s not always organic. Especially when you’re kids are old enough to take queues and you know what makes a decent image.
He’s a slow eater, so it was just us at the table. He had a logo shirt on, so I asked him to get low. Becks hates taking direction, so I knew his face would read disgusted. “Scooch down in your chair.” I told him because I thought: Maybe Stock wants a picture of a kid upset with his dinner? ***
I lied to you. If I wouldn’t have written the above and shared the photo, you would have believed that my kid just like your kid hates certain dinners. We could have bonded over that. Trust me, I’ve had plenty of uneaten dinners and grumpy kids. We can bond. But tonight, he liked the Honey Curried Pork.
But you know what? I hate when people don’t admit that they lie**** in photography. Lots of people talk about lifestyle and real authentic images. It’s buzzy right now. It’s also my favorite style of photography. Most of my best photography friends do it and I’m not bashing any of them. But it’s not always really Real. And when we think it’s 100% Real, that’s bad because it makes people feel shitty. I hate when people feel shitty about themselves. Especially over lies. We start to hear and believe the Asshole head voice: Why can’t my images look like that? Why can’t I grab those moments? They know their kids better than I know mine. It must be their faster camera. She’s just a really good mom and photographer at the SAME time! Fuck I’m a mess but my mess isn’t even good enough for my albums.
Sometimes the images are faked and that’s ok as long as we all recognize it. It isn’t easy to create authentic moments that feel real. It takes practice. And some skill earned in living through those moments.
We all occasionally do it. Just rarely fess up. Tonight’s my night. I faked the first image and I don’t feel bad. I love Editing Before and After’s. But tonight I shared a Scenario Before and After: Real Life vs. Photographed Life.
Sometimes we lie so we can recreate a moment we’ve already lived through. And through the lens we can feel the need to relive that moment when our kids are lanky and have facial hair. So we create and snap. We lie-ish.
And sometimes there’s no need. Sometimes we just capture a simple moment as is.
*My sister swears he wasn’t a farmer and they weren’t dropping off chickens. She swears it was pies. Either way, my dad never dropped off pies or chickens before. I told her, “I swear it was chickens! I’m going with that, it’s funnier.” I’m still lying…
**If she wants to tell you why we didn’t get punished, she can. Which is probably as funny as the Chicken Farmer. I don’t own all stories.
*** I thought this even though I knew the curtain was wonky and the napkin was too distracting for Stock. And maybe the plate would be licensed. And the scene wasn’t centered. But you never know with stock. So you shoot.
****Lie might be a strong word. Maybe fess up… Maybe craft a scene would be better.