(Dusting Off a Classic) Say Cheese!
Tonight we're going to journey back to a simpler time. Our topic? Cameras. Specifically the TIMER on our cameras.
And please allow me to retract that previous statement. It wasn't so much that the act itself was simpler but that the technology was without a doubt simpler. And is that so wrong? To have to do a litter work for your spoils? And let us not kid ourselves. Minimal work was required.
So let's hop back to those glorious days of the timer on our cameras.
Flat out panic. If ever there was a race against the clock....THIS WAS IT. Christ, it was hard enough getting the entire family to sit still for :44 seconds let alone set the ticking time bomb and get yourself situated in time for the flash. And forget about the convenience of seeing into the immediate future to get a glimpse of what your picture might actually look like! No. We were forced to wing it. Line that shit up and pray to Kodak your shot was lined up. Which, by the way, how often were you blessed with a perfect shot during the first round of photos? Maaaaybe once? We all remember the day because that particular picture is still hanging over the fireplace or it's nestled nicely in a frame which is conveniently located in a spot for all to see. And why shouldn't it be? We pulled off the seemingly impossible! A one shot wonder. Which I hope you're still enjoying to this day. I know I am. For those miracles have long since been forgotten. Hell, nowadays people can’t even wait to turn their phones around to check the damage. Today you have the ability to look at yourself while you take a picture of……..yourself. Smug? You betcha. At least you’re treated to a taste of what that glamorous mug will look like for all those likes you’re going to pile up.
Now what about the phrase, "Say Cheese!" Out of all photo-related actions how in the steamy hell did THAT command transcend from the times of our bulky flash bulbs right on through to our smartphone generation? Say cheese. No, really. Just say the word cheese to yourself right this very moment. While you're doing what I say, go on ahead and speak that phrase in front of mirror to get the full effect. Exactly. We can stop looking for Waldo and start looking for your smile because I sure don't see it. History is a bit sketchy with the origin of "Say Cheese" yet it apparently forced subjects getting their picture taken to resemble something of a smile. Really? Because by my estimation it actually looks like someone behind the camera yelled "I just ate all of your cheese!" THAT is much more believable to me. There's accuracy behind that phrase because now we can absolutely justify that unsettling half-smile, that borderline murderous glare, that smirk that says, "You go right ahead and think you've gotten away scot-free. I'll be running you down like a fucking hound as soon as this uncomfortable photo session is over." I could accept that cheese is a glorious delicacy and when THINKING about cheese I tend to smile more than I’d keep that frown upside down. Yet alas, we are not here to discuss the wonders of cheese; we are here for the photos.
And speaking of photos, we just touched on the cringe-worthy selfie picture, but what about the inevitable, “Would you mind taking our photo for us?” Now hold your horses, for I’m not saying I mind that request at all. I want to (and I am) imagine how silly it’d look if people used to walk around with their powder and boxy cameras (complete with cloth cover of course) asking strangers to take their photo. Imagine the process leading up to the actual shot! It’d take days!
I never understood the call to attention before a camera takes the shot. Forced smiles are horrendous. Here, and ONLY here, I will side with the hipster/emo crowd. It's all about the shot that the subject has no idea is coming. Capture that moment....Right? That's what the kids are saying these days. Shit, I don't know. I have already surrendered to the fact that I can not capture life accurately through a lens. My trusty eyeballs sure seem to do the trick though!
OK, enough clamoring. Let's hopscotch through time a bit and marvel at the strides photography has taken.
'Flash' forward to today (flash....see what happened there??) where technology whores out yet another activity. Photography. Dammit. Everyone has the next best shot don't they? Everyone's a budding 'artist'. Now let's take a picture of those people's facial expressions after we tell them that it's just another shot of a bike leaning against a colorful wall. You know the drill. See below. How many more of these do we need? Where's the effort? Where's the originality? Because it's no longer original if I can find thousands of the SAME PICTURE anywhere I look. I love my bikes but they're not that sexy folks.
Now, the Flannel Axe does indeed have an Instagram account, so I suppose you could peg me as a hypocrite and I wouldn't stop you. However, if you happen to be following our feed you'll soon realize that photography class was never part of the curriculum. I could care less. I love and respect a beautifully captured scene whether it be of a human emotion, a landscape or an adorable pet. I know some extremely talented "freeze-framers" and they have my admiration. I just feel as though we could pump the brakes a tad and let life play out in real time a bit more than continuing to feed our obsession around cornering everything into an 8 x 10.
The other issue we overlook? The extinction of the photo album —and no, I’m not talking about the file folder you have stored up in the cloud— no, I’m talking about that 250 lbs coffee table decoration your mother has sitting in the living room.
And even though to lift a photo album onto your lap is akin to hoisting a slab of concrete —we love them.
There’s just a permanence with physical photos you cannot replace with 2 TB worth of photo data up in space somewhere. I understand that the memories are equally preserved, but I want to flip through those pages, not thumb through.
In the end it matters not. There will always be those who relish the past and we’ll continue to see the way the past used to be entombed in glossy paper, just like we’ll continue stockpiling gigs of selfies into the stratosphere. Either way, memories are nice, aren’t they?