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Monday, March 23, 2015
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A SENIOR CITIZEN by Victoria Chatham
Photograph? Of me? I have always considered myself
totally unphotogenic and really dislike having my photograph taken, so such a
thing is like hens’ teeth. It doesn't exist. But, the project in which I became
involved required it. I thought I might just be able to get something a bit
better than my driver’s licence or passport picture by playing around with my
webcam - if only I could find it.
Now, I’m not the smartest when it comes to using my
laptop for anything but writing, simple spread sheets, emailing and searching
the Internet. However, I had managed to take a photo with my webcam once
before. Surely it couldn’t be so hard? I thought I could use the search feature
to find the webcam, but have you noticed that computers will only find what you
are looking for when you input the correctly worded query? Find webcam, how to
use the webcam, open the webcam – none of these had the desired effect. I
finally searched All Programs. Voila!
However, once I had opened the webcam, the screen
was like snow. Panic set in. What could be wrong? Nothing as it turned out. I
simply switched the light in my office on and bingo, could see myself on my
computer screen. I thought about all the hints and tips about taking
photographs that I’d ever heard or read. In profile is often better than full
face. Look up into the camera. Try smiling naturally rather than the ‘big
cheese’ grin. And then there was the color aspect.
Having been professionally color coded at some sales
presentation many years ago, I knew which colors enhanced my natural coloring.
Only trouble was, back then my hair was dark brown, almost black in fact. Now
it iwas grey going on white. Does that make a difference? I thought not, so
pulled shirts, blouses and tops from my wardrobe, all with appropriate
I still had a dog when this palaver took place. The activity
totally confused him as he sat watching these quick changes. He was smart. He
knew the difference between going-to-work clothes and going-to-the-park
clothes. After my third change of top and jewelery he gave up and went to bed,
curling up on his feather pillow (he wasn’t at all spoiled) in a disgusted
My first outfit was a powder blue blouse. When I
bought it I thought it was smart but, with or without the string of pearls around my neck, it made me feel like a positive dowager. At
what point had I started to regress to a more youthful image? I missed that moment altogether. Next I went for a
dark blue shirt. I didn’t like that either. Finally I tried a never-been-worn
white shirt. Now, I was told on more than one occasion that white is my color,
but not when I owned a black dog that shed hair like a frightened cat.
Next was to arrange a back drop that did not include
books growing out the top of my head. I cleared my desk and moved my laptop
around so that I just had the wall behind me. That was great, except for the
fact there was hardly any room for me between the end of the desk and the wall.
I turned the laptop around and perched it on the opposite end of the desk, but
then I got a corner of the door in the picture and for the life of me could not
find an angle to exclude it.
Back to the narrow spot. I might add here that
moving my desk was not an option. By now the dog had left his bed and was sat
in the middle of the floor watching me and no doubt wondering what the hell his
idiot person was up to. Now to practice a natural smile. Have you ever wondered
what a natural smile looks like? No? Me neither. I tried to think of something
funny, but where do the jokes go when you want them? My brain was dead and I
wasn’t getting any inspiration from the picture that gazed back at me from my screen.
I leaned in closer to the camera, but this did not
achieve the look I wanted. I turned slightly sideways and found it was not easy
to look out the corner of my eye and have my hands on the keyboard ready to
take a picture. I tipped my head up, then down and then remembered that looking
up into a camera is supposed to produce the best picture.
So now I tried sitting lower than my laptop and
looked up into it. I looked like Oliver, asking for more. Not a good look. By
now I was giggling like a teenager at this performance. Oh, the things we do in the privacy of
our own homes! At least my laughter produced the more natural look the pundits
recommended. I returned to my spot between the desk and the wall, still
laughing at myself for my stupid antics. Said dog had by now retired once more
to his bed, having given up on his lunatic human.
I tried a few more poses, altered the angle of my
desk lamp, and finally got a shot that I could live with. Those are the
pictures gracing my Facebook pages. The pictures that a friend of my daughter’s recently mentioned make me look old and advised me to ‘sharpen them up’.
I still don’t like having my photograph taken but
I’ve moved beyond using my webcam. I don’t have a smartphone or iphone, so
taking a selfie is out of the question. Who coined that word anyway? Is it really
Recently I had pictures taken by a professional
photographer. Very soon I’ll be updating my Facebook and web site pictures and
hopefully, I won’t have to go through that process again for a very long time.
You can find out more about Victoria (with or without pictures) at: