Saturday, November 22, 2008

Story Behind the Picture: "Oslo"

The cold snap in the weather prompted my four year-old to rummage through the drawer for winter hats this morning. He chose one woven with intricate patterns of snowflakes and reindeer, complete with tassel on top. "Where did you get this hat, mommy?" he asked, his brown eyes peeking out from under the blue and white wool. "I bought that in Norway, a long time ago," I replied, remembering my solo trip to Scandinavia with the foggy wistfulness that comes from years of "amnesia," the kind that helps you forget the biting cold winds, the rough waters of the fjords that threatened to make even the most seasoned sea traveler ill, or the overnight train that stalled somewhere in the wilderness above the arctic circle, surrounded by nothing but fir trees and the occasional howling wolf. I was young, only a graduate student a the time, and I carried everything I owned on my back for five days straight. I stayed in hostels. I ate strange foods that I could not pronounce. I spoke enough Norwegian to get by, although most people took pity on me and kindly communicated with me in English (especially after I tried to order a pint of "wool"...the word for "beer" and "wool" in Norwegian are remarkably similar...). I learned to navigate foreign cities and foreign terrain without doubting my own instincts. I learned never to hop on a trolley without paying (hey, I was poor...but that didn't stop the transport authorities from confiscating my passport...they held me on that same trolley for about 45 minutes until they saw I was scared enough to never fare dodge again). I learned how to pluck wool from sheep, and card, spin, and weave it into sails as Norwegian women did so long ago (the real reason I was actually there...and you all know without sails, there would have been no Viking exploration, no discoveries. You can thank the Norwegian ladies for that!). I took this photo on the last day of my trip: I had just enough money to buy a roll of film (and yes, still pay for the trolley to take me to the Oslo airport). I walked through Vigland's Sculpture Park, listening to the snow crunch under the treads of my hiking boots. My ruck sack weighed about 50 pounds and it was slow going through the deep, white drifts. I was grateful to come across this paved, nearly clear pathway with its rows of welcoming trees, leading me onward.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Story Behind the Picture: "Old Friend"

This is a portrait of our thirteen-year-old friend, Bronco. Bronco and I don't often get along: he and my husband lived happily (and messily) together in bachelor bliss for five years until I entered the picture. Each time Bronco would stroll past, aloof and uninterested when we first met, I could hear him thinking "everything was fine until YOU came along." In a way, he was right. No more sleeping on the couch. No more sleeping on the bed. No more digging holes in the lawn. No more free run of the house when the humans were away (he figured out how to open locked windows and would regularly escape). And then came the other animals, each one adopted as he had been. And then the children, climbing over him, using him as a step-stool, "petting" him with a little TOO much love, at times.
Bronco and I pass each other in the halls like two polite co-workers: occasionally we'll stop for a chat (or a pet), but he's made it clear he's got more important things to do. Like nap. It makes me laugh because I know our aloof relationship is all a facade, an act. I know this because one day, years ago, Bronco saved me from two men who entered our home. They never had the chance to execute whatever their dark plans may have been: my fifty-pound mutt of completely unidentifiable origin made sure of that. And then, one year later, on a frigid November morning at the beach, Bronco was carried away by a rip-tide. I watched in horror as his head went under the waves and I jumped in after him, despite being fully clothed and very pregnant.
It took almost fifty attempts to take this picture: he was simply not interested in looking at me (although he is nearly blind, so eye contact isn't really his strong suit anymore). Perhaps he didn't hear my calls, my cajoles, for his hearing is certainly not what it used to be. Perhaps he was feeling grumpy because his hips are continuously sore. Perhaps his ego has been irrevocably bruised because he needs my help to climb the stairs at the end of each night. But then, as I was about to give up, I whispered his name softly. He turned to me, just once, and waited for the shutter to click.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Story Behind the Picture: "Cadillac Collage"

Welcome and thank you for joining me for yet another funny story! This photo to the left is a collage of four images I shot for a wonderful customer in Florida (her boyfriend and my husband share a love of automobiles!). She provided me with a list of cars that her boyfriend loves and I was off on the hunt...

Person at Car Dealership Sales Desk:
"Hello, how may I help you?"
Me:"Hi! I'm a photographer and I'm looking for the blah-blah-blah car - do you have any in stock that I'd be able to photograph?"
Person at Desk: click...dial tone....
Me: "Hello? Is anyone there?"

[repeat above conversation several times]

Then, finally, I found a helpful salesman! He had my Cadillac XLR in stock! Happy dance!

Joe the Salesman: "Uh, yeah, we gotchya Caddy in stock hear at da showroom. When d'ya wanna come in?"
Me: "Right away!"

So I pack up my 30 pounds of gear (including my great-aunt's old Kodac Duaflex viewfinder, which gives these photos a wonderful, grainy quailty) and trundle off to the dealership. There, glowing bright white under the sun-filled skylights of the spotless showroom floor, is my car. A chorus of angels sings, a halo of white light surrounds my 2009 Caddilac XLR, and I unpack my camera bag, eager to begin my work. The chorus comes to an abrupt halt when I recognize the voice of Joe the Salesman.

Joe: "Hiya"
Me: "Hi Joe, thank you so very much for allowing me to come in and-"
Joe [moving closer to car]: "Yeah, yeah, no prob. So do you, like, do this for a livin' or somethin?"
Me: "Well, I'm certainly trying!"
Joe [now standing in front of car]: "So do ya want me to lay across the hood or somethin'?"
Me: stunned silence, mouth open
Joe: "I have a speedo I can wear."
Me: "Erm, gee, Joe, I really appreciate that offer but I think I'd never sell another photograph again."
Chorus of Salesmen in Background: "OOOOOOOH, JOE, she told YOU!"

Luckily for me (and my customer) Joe quickly flees the scene and I'm free to capture the car. Without Joe. Or his speedo. And everyone is happy.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next week's story!
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