the beach at Arbroath, Scotland

26 March 2004
the vicious edit

i have this one book, a book i'd highly recommend, called Love and Desire : Photographs. chock full of nudity and suggestiveness, i'm warning you: if you're offended by that sort of thing, pass it by. it's basically a collection of photos arranged loosely under categories, the photos range from early daguerrotypes to Man Ray. besides it being a collection of diverse and wonderful photos, it has an introduction that i've found hard to get out of my head.

it's hard to believe that photography as we know it has only existed for a little over a hundred and fifty years. this whole idea of capturing and preserving images is something that is so new and yet has become such a integral part of our lives that we don't even think about it. the introduction says that (of course) the first thing we did upon inventing photography was start photographing ourselves.

i wonder what photography did to us. i mean, think about it: someone who lived in the 19th century never saw a photo of themselves. if a grandfather or grandmother or a great aunt died, unless they were upper class and had a painting commissioned, they were essentially gone, no images of them existed to look back on and remember, only the highly selective and often incorrect memories of those who loved them. it must have been a very different world. in the 19th century, when someone was going out on the town, they perhaps had a mirror where they primped and preened, and then, convinced they looked utterly fabulous, went out and probably had a wonderful time. they never saw a photo of themselves and thought "look how huge my thighs are" or "my hair looks awful" or "i can't believe i wore that". when we see photos of ourselves, suddenly things are not as we think they are. we are not as we think we are. now we have to second guess ourselves, because of what we saw in a photo. don't tell me you haven't done it, because you know you have. photography, i believe, has drawn the human race into an unhealthy state of self-examination.

several things have led me to think (far too much) about this. the first occurred a couple weeks ago, when i went for a job interview. i dressed well, of course, and on the way into the place, there were some sliding glass doors. i almost stopped to look at my reflection when i suddenly realized that i just didn't want to know. it was one of those rare moments when i felt good about myself, confident, sure. i knew if i looked in the mirror, some part of that confidence would be shattered. just like it had been shattered so many times when i saw photos of myself. i have a very clear conception of how i look, how my body looks, and very rarely does it match up with what i see in photos of myself. so i guess, in this case, ignorance is bliss: i just didn't want to know.

i can't help but imagine how the world would be if we didn't use photography the way we did: to present an ideal. an unrealistic ideal. like how many 13 year olds look at Cindy Crawford's body and think that's how everyone is. it's just human nature, i think. we take photos to be reality, when in fact they are anything but. everybody is talking about pornogrpahy and indecency these days. cellulite, fat, wrinkles, stretch marks - that's the real pornography. that's the shit that everyone is horrified and repulsed by, the stuff they want to cover up and have no one see. it's bizarre that those are the things that are verboten in our culture: the human body can be shown as long as it's perfect and airbrushed, but if it isn't. well, god forbid.

i viciously edit and crop and carefully examine all the photos of me that eventually go onto this site. i'm sure everyone who has a website does this to some extent. minimize the big nose, avoid the double chin, definitely never any full body shots. blurr, cover, make indistinct. eyes cast down, look away, be mysterious. now that i think about it, it's kind of ridiculous.

taken at coney island, summer of 2001 (back when i had long hair).

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