My Beautiful New Career

Read any how-to advice about writing a blog and one of the first things you’re advised to do is find a niche for yourself. The second is to vary your presentation with lots of zany photographs to keep people interested, since everybody has the attention span of a gnat these days.

Good grief, I continue to do just about everything wrong in the blogosphere. I am so alienated by the whole idea of a niche that I can’t even decide how to pronounce it. I’ll spend a few days pronouncing it the French way, then decide I’m sounding pretentious as hell. So I go back to the short-i, rhymes-with-hitch approach until I realize I am approaching full-bore bumpkin status and need to cut it out, s’il vous plait. If I am so undisciplined I can never decide on a pronunciation, I’m way too undisciplined as a writer to limit myself to one topic and dig myself a niche.

As far as photos, I manage to conjure up one every year or so. This requires badgering my husband to take a photo in the first place, then continuing the emotional onslaught till “we” (i.e., he)  can transfer it onto the blog. By this point, I am so exhausted, I realize I am sacrificing my mental health to the insatiable demands of the Internet and should really take a nap.

Last night, however, I went in a completely new direction. We were at a birthday party for Tom, one of the other residents at our new condo. (We live in a highly social building. Every couple of weeks, there’s a wine-tasting. Someone has also suggested that a building-wide 12-Step program is probably next on the agenda.)

Anyway, Tom knows the names of everybody in our building. I am always sidling up to him, whispering a desperate question about somebody I’ve probably met three or four times, but can’t remember. I would ask my husband, but he’s even worse than I am at names and faces. So, fortunately, we had Tom, our human social encyclopedia, at the party.

That’s when it occurred to me I was getting a little too co-dependent on Tom and needed to take some action. I told him we should put together a book of our condo’s residents. In spite of my little photo phobia, I’d take the pictures and he’d provide all the names. Tom was busy talking to somebody else and he just nodded. I took this as being a fully enthusiastic buy-in, so started taking pictures of everybody at the party with my iPhone.

I liked it. Once I figured out which app and button I had to press, I felt like a member of the paparazzi. People treat you with respect when you’re hauling around a camera, even if you don’t know what you’re doing. Some of them noted I was getting awfully close up for my photos, but I told them that was part of my philosophy as a photographer/artiste. Look into the soul, I said; that’s what any great photographer does. “Jackie Kennedy got her start as a photographer,” I reminded them.

I’d taken, oh, some 25 shots and was really getting into it and refining my technique when my husband came up and suggested I shouldn’t shoot photos against the light. How typical. People are always threatened when you find a new creative passion and are excelling at it; they try to drag you down.

When I’d finished, when I’d taken shots of everybody at the party, including some people who didn’t even live at the condo, I checked over my work. A few people had the tops of their heads cut off. With others, the light in the background was a little too bright and you couldn’t quite make out their faces. In fact, they looked like a group of featureless thumbs posing in front of the sun.

I guess I get all critical of myself about this. But I am so over that kind of self-defeating negativity. Art is a journey, I tell myself, and I am a pilgrim. Like the thug in American Graffiti says, Rome wasn’t burned in a day.

(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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16 comments… add one
  • Cindy A Link

    You are WAY ahead of me. Just got an iPhone last week. You have alerted me to the fact that there’s a camera in there. So I took a picture of your website but have no idea how to download it.

  • You are way ahead of me. I have a Trac Fone that barely does more than make phone calls – if I can figure out how to dial the numbers. But I love my digital camera and I’ve always loved taking pictures. And I can even download the pictures! (I did enjoy your post, too.)

  • WOW!!! Did you know that with one thumb-swipe on your phone screen you can go from being merely a photographer to a video artist? You can tell your stories with a moving visual canvas? Your niche will become the Austin/Avant-Garde School of movie-making, with you at the helm. Soon, you will be blogging us of your madcap experiences at Cannes, Sundance. Fans of yours, such as Cate Blanchett, Leonardo DiCaprio, will come beating on your door, begging to star in one of your indie productions. I guess hubby will will pea-green as he holes up in the condo popping tons of corn to share with the neighbors. Congratulations on your new career!

  • Marie Link

    Thanks for the early-morning laugh!

  • Giving this quote four stars: “Art is a journey, I tell myself, and I am a pilgrim.” Loved reading this post as I imagined you slinking around the room taking photos. It’s your writing that is so brilliant. No need for illustration. You always make me smile, so thank you.

  • I agree with Alexandra. I visit your blog for the content. Does that make me weird? 🙂

  • Did you know there are little magnetic lenses you can attach to your iPhone for special effects? Imagine the things you could do with a fish-eye lens…

  • Christine Link

    I have a slew of photographic apps on my iPhone; it gets rather addicting. Your post made me laugh!!!

  • Sheryl Link

    Who needs photos when your descriptions conjure up so mAny images? I’m with you on that; I finally am learning how to load photos from my camera onto my computer !

  • Let’s start a club, shall we, of people who do just about everything wrong in the blogosphere? A “colleague” began lecturing me about how something I do is bad for “SEO” and I just smiled, nodded, and ignored all her advice anyway.

  • Merr Link

    You are inspiring me to learn how to better use my digital camera, not to mention iTunes, but I digress!

  • Oh that’s how you learn. Next time you’ll know to check your work right after taking the photo!

  • Ruth, that is a riot. As someone who is really trying to figure out how to take a good picture, I can totally relate. Hell, I’m just impressed that you have an iPhone. My cell phone still has a dial.

  • I so love that quote: art is a journey and I am a pilgrim. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Ok, first of all, Ruth, your blog doesn’t even need photos because your awesome writing stands on its own. And second, I’m in the bumpkiny, rhymes-with-hitch camp. I agree – neesh is too high-brow.

  • Well now you can send those phone pictures to your friends–or text them. If you can’t figure out how, just ask any teenager and they can figure out how to do all sorts of things. My teen keeps adding apps to my phone I can’t work…

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