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Camera does lie; columnist does not

Perhaps, as one letter to the editor suggested, Front Porch columnists should write about more important and pressing issues such as Occupy Wall Street, the housing debacle, unemployment or the Bernie Madoffs who “made off” with billions, instead of the mundane goings-on of mailbox theft, exceptionally clever furry friends, the agony and ecstasy of kids and a rambunctious chicken.

It’s true. This column does step away from the boil and bubble, narrowing its scope on slice-of-life vignettes. Pollyannaish? Perhaps, but there are known certainties in life that no words can change – the world will continue to spin, leaders will continue to screw up, the economy will continue to wax and wane, and cameras will continue to take pictures despite my unphotogenic self.

You read that right, “cameras … unphotogenic self” which has nothing to do with pressing issues but has something to do with the trials and travails of everyday life – the connective tissue of humanity if you will – and the core of Front Porch columns. My unphotogenic-self story fits this core.

Cameras and I don’t play well together. Lighting, background, amateur or professional, impromptu or posed, film or digital makes no difference. The all-knowing camera lens emphasizes every flaw with utter disdain.

 This is not a digging-for-compliments expedition like those who lament how awful they look in pictures but are lying. No siree Bob, this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The mug shot appearing with this column took a mere 150 minutes and 70 shots to achieve one passable picture…and I was standing on my head. That’s 150 minutes I’ll never get back.

The cliché “You look great!” said by those wrangled into viewing our family photos has never jived. I realize in polite society, “Crikey, you look hideous!” is impolite, but how anyone can keep a straight face while saying my double chin, crooked smile and off-center face looks “great” is beyond me.

I’ve accepted these versions of myself, but there are times I wish the camera would cut me some slack, you know? Like at my daughter’s wedding, for instance. Unfortunately, my hope that the camera would play nice just this once was dashed when digital card met LCD screen.

 The bride looked stunning; the groom, handsome; bridal party in perfect symmetry, guests dressed in their finest and the camera loved them all. Then, without warning, “Who’s that?” I murmured. Everyone leaned forward, squinting at the screen while I felt the sudden terror of realization sink in.

“That” was me – the poster child for Pablo Picasso’s Cubism period with my three chins, cheeks oddly askew and whatever made me think that dress looked good?

Talk about more important and pressing issues.

I’ve never understood how the mirror projects one image and the camera another, so I asked a professional photographer. The camera, he explained, is an imperfect device and no amount of expensive lenses, ISO/RAW settings, or histograms can duplicate what the human eye sees. Our eyes are perfect observation orbs and proof positive that beauty is in the eye – not camera lens – of the beholder.

Now, I know my photo-zilla rant is small potatoes compared to our community’s and the world’s woes, but I also know these small potatoes are as important as they are difficult to write about.

Discussing personal fears, joys and sorrows and opening up that vulnerability factor takes a bit of insanity and a whole lot of gumption. Front Porch columnists explore the common issues that affect us all but are rarely talked about. We delve into our own agonies and ecstasies hoping others will find connection and comfort in the knowledge they’re not alone on this journey.

The Front Porch column may not tackle the pressing news of the day, but there’s blood, sweat, laughter and tears in every word. My unphotogenic self guarantees it.

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at columnists.