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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Apparently We are All Too Ugly

People pay me to take their photographs. They pay me well. And I don't object to that at all. In fact, I kinda rely upon it. But it appears that the comment about a prophet never being honoured in his home town also appears to apply to photographers. I feel for the prophets. Don't get me wrong. They always seem to get the bad end of the stick. But we photographers don't always get it easy either. Turn up with a camera to barbecue and watch as everyone starts running like a scene from an old Godzilla movie.
When a photographer sees beautiful light he just can't help himself. And when the golden light of afternoon falls on a landscape, you have two options. You can photograph the landscape, or put people in it. Being the people photographer that I am, I selected box number two. In retrospect, I think the landscape would have been easier. You see, trying to photograph friends and family at a recent barbecue was more like trying to pull teeth - especially when it came to my two nephews' girlfriends, Nicky and Karen. Karen is seen above. Nicky's portrait is the one at the bottom of this post. Now, you would think that the offer of a free portrait by a fairly well known and respected photographer would interest some people. Nope. Apparently everyone is ugly in this world! Or maybe just everyone at this get-together. That is at least what I learned over the weekend.You see, Sunday found me at my sisters family home in Yarra Glen. This is my sister. She has to be the Grooviest Granny around. She loves Velvet Revolver, AudioSlave, Creed and well..anything that has a wall of good noise coming out of it. She is almost 50, but you can hear her car coming from a mile off - and its not the engine, its the subwoofer.And despite this, she loves the peace and quiet of her 15 acre property in Yarra Glen. It is a lovely property and she and her husband were having a going away get-together for two of her friends. My son Nathan and I had just returned from camping near Jamieson and needed a shower real bad. I mean, real bad. But, hey, we stayed on for the free food and drinks. Why not? Well, seriously, I love my family dearly and I never pass up the chance to catch up with my parents, my sisters and their husbands and my nieces and nephews. I do have a wonderful family. Nonetheless, I was informed that I needed to earn my keep. So, my part was to play the guitar around the fire later. By so doing I would earn my potato salad and meat. Maybe even a beer. No worries. Can do.
But the light began to warm and the sun began to soften and descend. Being the people photographer that I am I saw opportunities that I just could not pass up.
Quickly I gathered up my niece Jade and her husband Dave and their baby, Max. I haven't had a chance to photograph Max yet, so here was my moment. And there was no argument from Jade and her husband! they were great, as was little Max. Generally, I agree with WC Fields. 'Never work with children or animals'. I don't do kids. As much as I love them, I don't think I could be a child photographer. I prefer to play with them. But Max is my niece's son and the light of my sister's eyes. And he is so cute! So it was all about the love. Little Max just sat in the sunlight and smiled for his Great Uncle...and I am a great uncle!
Ok. Now I was on a roll. I began suggesting to friends that they might like to have some photographs taken. The light was lovely! 
In typical self-deprecation, I found the women were just not interested. Apparently they are all too ugly. I am sure their husbands didn't think so. As for me, I thought they looked just fine. They were all dressed nicely. They had make up on. And the light...was lovely. I managed to coerce a few of them to sit in the grass and let the setting sun rimlight their faces. But it wasn't easy.
Then came the hardest part. Without doubt, two of the prettiest girls at this party were Karen and Nicky. I knew that my nephews did not have any real photographs of them so I thought I would once again reinstate my Hero Uncle status by taking photographs of them. But it was not the easiest thing to do. Apparently, they are ugly too. And their clothes were wrong. Their hair was a mess as well. I don't know what mirror they are looking into, but I thought they were beautiful. So do my nephews of course.
Using my well practiced arts of coercion and blackmail, I managed to convince them to follow me into the fields and take some portraits of them. They sat, followed instructions and did what they could do to cooperate. They are both lovely, sweet girls and we get along very well. Of course, they both still believe that they are too unattractive to be photographed, but what do they know? They are young girls after all. In twenty to thirty years time they will look at these images and wish to be that ugly again.
Jared and Karen


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The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller