I Am a Camera

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I’ve never been much of a photographer. I honestly think the problem is one of assertiveness. Taking photos of the world around you requires some chutzpah, some “balls.” To take a photo of a stranger, or even a tree requires you to step into the space of someone or something, and “take” an image for yourself. Even the the concept of “shooting” a photo sounds aggressive. This is the same type of anxiety that prevents me from kissing a woman on a first date. It just seems too forward.

Susan Sontag, in her famous book On Photography, wrote “To photograph people is to violate them… It turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed… Essentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.”

For most of my life, I have left the photography for others. My place was always sitting in the corner with a pad and pen. Now I say, “Phooey!” It is time for a change.

Yesterday, I opened up a Flickr account.

Can you believe that I’ve been blogging for over a year and have never investigated your Flickr pages? What fun. I’ve been stalking you all day. There you are! Photos of you. With your friends. With your family. Half-naked. What a treat to see you outside of your blogging lives.

I’ve already added a few of you as “contacts.” Don’t feel obligated to make me your contact. There is nothing of interest on my site as of yet. I don’t even own a digital camera. Can anyone suggest one in the $200 range? I took Alison‘s suggestion and tested a few models for the “feel” of the camera. I definitely like the bulkier ones with the grip.

One camera that clearly struck my imagination was the HP Photosmart R967.

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This model is one of their new models that contains a “slimming feature” (via Big Fat Blog). After taking photo, you can use a slider on the camera to “instantly trim of pounds from the subjects in your photos!”

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Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought the aim of personal photography was to “capture” reality. I even remember learning in art history classes in college that Impressionism and Expressionism were direct reactions to the way photography could better show the real world than a painting. Don’t we expect a photo to somehow reflect reality? Isn’t it going to be weird showing the photos of your size-8 body when you’re standing there holding the photos in your size-14 body? Do you really want people to say to you, “You look wonderful in that photo even though I know it is mostly the camera’s slimming effect and in reality you are twenty-five pounds more! Is this the ultimate solution for our obesity problem — showing photos to each other of us looking thin and making believe it is “reality?” I can understand putting an old photo of yourself on Match.com, since no one really knows you there, but who are you going to be fooling with your slimmer personal photos? Your co-workers? Your mother? Yourself?

And what type of message are we giving our already anorexic-obsessed teenagers?

But who I am to stop modern technology and human vanity? Who doesn’t want to look better on film? I’d be a hypocrite to speak against photographic manipulation. Remember the time I “whitened my teeth” in Photoshop for my profile pic (see sidebar photo)? What’s wrong with wanting to look how you want to look?

With this new attitude, I went over to Circuit City to explore some of the other cameras with new features like that of the HP Photosmart R967. It was an eye-opening experience.

I was greatly impressed with the Canon PowerShot B900 and it’s brand new “colorizing” feature.

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I’ve always thought that black people were much “cooler” than white people. I think that’s why so many white suburban kids love rap and “inner city” fashion. Wouldn’t it be great to show how “cool” you were to your friends — at least on film?

Here I am this morning. Pretty dull, huh?

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Here I am after using the “colorizing” filter!

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And it’s so easy!

The Nikon Coolpix N7 is perfect for the struggling Mommyblogger or Daddyblogger family.

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Don’t you hate it when all you can afford is a cheap vacation to Legoland when your neighbors are taking the whole family to some resort in Maui? With just one click of Canon’s GWC (Great Wall of China) switch, impress your friends and neighbors.

Go from boring Legoland —

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— to a family adventures in the mysterious Orient, right in the camera!

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Finally, many of use our digital cameras for more personal pursuits. On Friday night, I was feeling a little alone, so I decided to email Charming But Single some photos I took of myself that I thought might “arouse” her interest. For some reason, I never heard back from her and she deleted me from her blogroll. But things would have been different if I had owned the exciting new Olympus SE-490.

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This new Olympus contains the trademarked Expando-filter. It is absolutely brilliant. Now you can make any object larger with the click of a button.

Look at this photograph I took on one of my vacations. Nice, but not very impressive.

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1-2-3 and presto!

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With the Olympus, Friday night might have turned out very differently.

Ansel Adams, eat your heart out!

(tonight and tomorrow is Yom Kippur. If you celebrate the holiday, have an easy fast. My Yom Kippur post from last year is here).

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59 Responses to I Am a Camera

  1. Rhea says:

    I like the Canon Powershot. I have an earlier model than the one you showed here, but it gives you great quality pics. The only drawback is that this camera, like many cheaper digital cameras, has a delay after you hit the button. So if you want to shoot a lot of action, you need to get a better camera.

  2. Is it just me or does the “slimming feature” actually just make the person appear farther away?

  3. Scarlet says:

    I’m very brand-loyal to Canon, but why are your hands down your pants…I mean, towel?

  4. anne says:

    Where will they ever stop…?
    I like the PowerShots too, but considering the quality of my pictures, that won’t help you much.

  5. Alison says:

    I lurved my HP Photosmart (720) until it bit the dust. But that new slimming feature gives me the heebees. On the other hand, now we can ALL go on the Photoshop diet!

  6. Rabbit says:

    My camera has the uncanny ability to make my hair look flatter and limper and my nose look bigger.

  7. Non-Highlighted Heather says:

    If I set my camera to the lowest resolution, overexpose it, and take the pic from super far away or super close up, I’m smokin’ hot.

  8. i’m terrible at taking pictures, they never turn out the way i want them to, i always assumed it was me, not the camera.
    you make a pretty hot black man;) or is that a hot white coloured black white man?

  9. Tara says:

    I missed this post when I looked this morning. I’m so glad I found it now. How funny. Nice abs by the way.

    The slimming feature seems a lot like people lying about their age. If you say you’re 25 when you’re really, forty, you just look really bad for your age. If you send someone a picture with a slimming feature, that person can only be disappointed when they see you for real.

  10. plain jane says:

    Re: Tara’s comment–“If you send someone a picture with a slimming feature, that person can only be disappointed when they see you for real.”

    Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “You looked better on MySpace”?

  11. pam says:

    I have a t-shirt that says “I’m hotter on the internet.” I bought it to wear to BlogHer, but then, I was too scared to go.

    I love seing pictures of/from the bloggers I read, it gives them another dimension. I’m psyched you’re going to be posting photos.

    What everyone said about the Canon Powershot cameras. They are great. A lot of the newer models have fixed the delay problem, so when you’re shooting hot Neil on Neil action shots, you won’t have to worry about missing a second. And some of them record short videos too!

  12. Janet says:

    I too am just discovery the joy that is photography despite the fact that I have owned my camera for two months now. The slimming feature is just too funny. I have a mirror in front of my kitchen table that has the same effect.

    My dinner guests love it. They can’t stop looking at themselves. And they always eat dessert.

  13. Dagny says:

    Sometime before the end of the year, I hope to buy a new camera. I am like Scarlet and am pretty loyal to Canon as well. I like my camera to be a cute little thing that can be easily slipped into a little evening bag. Something like one of the series of Canon Elph.

    And what’s wrong with saying you’re 25 if you’re really 40? Not that I ever do. It’s not my fault that the 20-somethings all think I am 25-28. Humph.

  14. sandra says:

    I know Nikons take fabulous photos. I have a Panasonic that I adore…

  15. Neil says:

    I did not like those tiny cameras at all. I know they are easier to put into a purse or a pocket, but it just felt too small in my hand, with no place to hold on.

  16. Mr. Fabulous says:

    Taking photos of the world around you requires some chutzpah, some “balls.”

    There is your problem, Neil.

    Try pushing the buttons with your fingers.

  17. V-Grrrl says:

    Lie about your age by ADDING years on so that people will say, “She looks mighty fine for a 50-year-old!”

    Re: photos. I’ve only recently begun taking pics of every day sights here in Belgium, and every time I pull my camera out to take a photo of someone’s house or property, I’m praying no one is seeing me. There’s nothing worse than being an AMERICAN in Europe with a camera. (“Ha, ha, ha. NOw she’s photographing our barn and our chickens. I bet she voted for Bush Head!”

  18. kristen says:

    I went for Kol Nidre last night and stayed the entire time, but I can’t do the fast, I just can’t. Not if I’m expected to be a good parent.

    I’ve never been a good photographer. I took photography as an elective when I was an undergrad and got a shitty grade and I worked my ass off. I sucked at composition, developing and printing and my teacher passed me for my effort. Once I got a digital camera and didn’t have to look thru a viewfinder, my photos improved 100% and I’ve actually taken a few that can be called good. If I were to go buy one (instead of getting one for free) I’d probably go for the Canon Rebel ~ I like the way that camera looks, feels and takes photos.

  19. justrun says:

    Dang. If I’d have known there was a slimming feature out there, I would have never ended up with my cheap Kodak. It has served me very well, but it has never taken off 20 pounds.

  20. Sarah says:

    lol!! have fun with the photography.

    you don’t need to be too assertive, i’m actually rather reserved but i still stop in a city street to photograph a building or tree. you get used to it!

  21. Janet says:

    Wow. You’ve made so much progress in such a short amount of time. Before you know it you’ll be airbrushing your friends and relatives in no time!:)

  22. Jody says:

    I’m curious – how exactly did that “color” feature change your hairsytle, take the hair off your chest and give you 6 pack abs? Talk about truth in advertising.

    Have an easy fast!

  23. wendy says:

    My fav part of being a photographer, was coaxing the beauty out of people. Most people are very scared of the camera. It did violate them. I loved getting them to laugh, preen, shine. Children are the best subject..adult women..middle aged,are the worse. Society has utterly convinced them their beauty has faded. It is so sad.

    As for that editing feature..thinning..YUCK. Part of the art of photography..is working Angles to mold reality. That is the eye of the beholder..Changing it that drastically is just fake. FAKE is ugly.

    I asked for the rally fancy nikon..for my b-day. I’m planning a self portait to ring in 42…in just a few weeks.

    A great subject. For a slip in your pocket cam…I like Fuji’s line. Really good optics.

  24. MARGARET says:

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think it’s only appropriate that some of those words are creative interpretations of the truth.

  25. Sweet says:

    So glad you’re getting into photography too. For one thing, you have to be very sneaky when taking pictures of strangers. It’s a talent I’ve mastered.

  26. NSC says:

    A while back I was all set to get into the cyber-sex with video-camera fad, but then I found out that there was no such thing as a “makes things look bigger than in real life” lens.

    It was quite a disappointment I must say.

  27. Wombat says:

    Photos always make me look two-dimensional.

  28. Jules says:

    Yeah, unfortunately, flickr is banned/blocked in a lot of countries (like where I am in Dubai – apparently its all that “immoral” content), so I can’t see all of your pretty pictures and fancy features.

  29. e. says:

    Ha, Jules, flickr is also blocked at my office for fear of immoral content/having a moment of fun at work!

    I am also a loyal Canon user. However, I am also a very bad photographer. I’m slowly making some process with very still objects like plants.. capturing the inner beauty of people is far, far beyond me.

  30. tch, tch. New cameras. Got to get me one of those.

  31. Deborah says:

    Fun post … but I checked, you’re still on Charming, But Single’s blogroll!!

  32. Neil says:

    Jules — Flickr is banned by our blogs aren’t?

    Deborah — I guess those photos I sent her weren’t as bad a I thought! Actually, she is having her tonsils removed today in the hospital, so I wish her a quick recovery.

  33. sarah g says:

    Your glasses are so pretty on your ‘cooler self’. And it will help with my next beau, how did you form such perfect circular shaving cream areas? Perfection. !

    Though I do appreciate Margarets thoughts on a thousand words…

  34. Daisy Mae says:

    I use an HP and love it. I used to have a Sony and that was great too. I seem to be a HP person these days though. HP printer, HP digital camera, HP laptop, HP printer paper, HP labels, HP photo paper, HP Photo printer. I think HP needs to put me on their payroll.

    Have to say, I didn’t see much of a difference (if any) on the slimming photos. Now when it starts taking off 50 pounds I am so there!

  35. CrankMama says:

    Personally, I like you better before the “colorized” feature… great glasses!

  36. Non-Highlighted Heather says:

    Naked women. That’s the only reason I go to Flickr.

  37. Jessica says:

    Hmmm…I keep looking for the differences in your before and “colorized” photos but they are so subtle that it really is difficult to pinpoint.

  38. That is the funniest thing I have read in 3 days. Brilliant.

    Your “colorizing” picture example reminded me of that movie, what the hell was it, the kid who makes himself black to get into Harvard.

  39. Neil says:

    Soul Man. Bad, offensive movie. (unlike this post).  But Rae Dawn Chong is cute in it.

  40. Karla says:

    I’m glad to see you’ve got a flickr account. Now I can peruse the soon-to-exist huge collection of pictures of you in various stages of undress. And in Sophia’s dresses.

  41. Bre says:

    Speaking of photos and of flickr … What happens when you know you’re both the subject and the photographer?

    I’m anti superspecial camera effects… if only because I’ll probably never figure them out. My digital does some fancy things, but I’m much happier with a roll of film!

  42. JavaCurls says:

    Neil, you are just too funny!! Loved this post as well as the colorful photo of you shaving!

    I love taking photos of people and things. Sometimes the locals (here in Belgium) will shoot me a weird look when I start taking photos of fruits, animals, and cheeses at the local markets but I could care less; most likely I’ll never see them again but the memories of the place or event will last forever.

    Regarding cameras… I’m a huge fan of Canon. If you’re serious about buying a camera I highly suggest you check out:
    http://www.dpreview.com/

    Good luck!

  43. jay says:

    Ohmigod, you totally had me cracking up today. Like, my ovaries are in pain from all the laughter.

  44. Hilly says:

    I think those slimming cameras are so wrong; hell, as a chubbette, even *I* don’t want one and I never use tricks in Photoshop either. I crop a lot but never do I thinnify.

    I got my husband a Nikon DL50 SLR camera for his birthday and it is the best camera I have ever used; it should be for the price but man is that thing awesome.

  45. missmckay says:

    too, too funny, neil.
    i’m going to give you a blog-match. go check out the farmgirl here:

    http://foodiefarmgirl.blogspot.com/

    it’s mostly photos and she has a link to her fav camera, which is on sale via amazon.

  46. Nics says:

    I have the Nikon one up there, I’m warning you though, alcohol plus millions of pixels aren’t a good combination.

  47. Mike F says:

    I know what you mean by “taking” peoples pictures. This weekend I went to a Scouting event and the Troop behind us had a young scout named Michael. I know this because they spent a half-hour trying to get Micahel out of the tent so that they could take the tent down before an impending rain storm hit.

    When Michael finally came out of the tent he was emotionally upset and crying in that Summer Camp all-my-friends-just-made-fun-of-me-for-a-half-hour way that can be so hard on a young boy.

    As I stood they and watched in the distance I knew that it would make a great photo, this boy crying in a sea of colorful tents on the beach. I also knew I couldn’t do take the picture. It would have been harmful, making a bad situation worse.

    So to be a great photographer do you have to be “mean” like that? I don’t know I just know I couldn’t do it.

  48. Happy Yom Kippur my friend! You look just like my friend Ray Patchen. Are you Ray, perhaps, and living a double-blogging life?

  49. Fitena says:

    You wear your glasses when you shave! lol! You won’t believe this but I soetimes forget to take mine off even when am going to wash my face!
    One of main reasons why I don’t like digital photography is because everything can be faked so easily!
    I personally own a Canon T60 and saving up to uy a tripod! I don’t have a scanner so you won’t see many pics on flickr!
    I know what you mean about “taking” people”, I was appalled to listen to myself wishing I had my camera with me at a funeral. Yet i was sure I’d have made great pictures.

    Fitèna

  50. Neil says:

    Fitena — Oh, man, if I shaved WITHOUT my glasses — you don’t want to see what would happen.

  51. rach says:

    It’s amazing what colourising filters can do. You are transformed, lol

  52. claire says:

    Love the feature coverage, Neil. I don’t own a digital camera yet either, but I have come across a lot of good review sites online that let you search by price, features, etc.

    I’m kinda on the move just now, but if you’re interested in those, drop me a line and I’ll send ’em to ya.

  53. deannie says:

    Oh Neil…I just loved this post. When I first saw the “slimming” camera from HP, this hot guy I know said he didn’t want one since it was more important to make things appear LARGER. Now I can point him here and he can get ummm, you know, enlarged.

  54. kapgar says:

    Forget the slimming feature. Did you see what they had to fix photos on Ugly Betty last night? Dayamn. Better than Photoshop even!

    Made me laugh how ridiculous it was.

  55. Neil says:

    Kapgar — have it Tivo-ed for later! I’d also like to get the camera that makes hamburgers look twice as big and tasty as what you actually get in Burger King.

  56. Akaky says:

    First, I wonder how come none of my colorizing filters will do that for me. It must be the digital aspect of it; this sort of thing probably doesnt work in film. Second, yes, before Neil starts mocking me, I still use film. My only thinning feature, beyond the hair on the top of my head, is to take the photo in such a way that I somehow manage to slice the subject in half. Obviously, this method is not as effective as Neil’s thinning method, but it works pretty well in a pinch.

  57. Akaky says:

    And you took your cholesterol medicine today, didnt you, Neil? You are eating something other than doughnuts, right?

  58. Neil says:

    Yes, Akaky, and my cholesterol went down. I even thanked you in a later post.

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