Monday, March 24, 2014

Age Trumps Death

This is 62, 2013
(Click on image to see larger)

I am here to assure you that the ravages of age are apparently more appealing than death.
How do I know this?
It’s simple.
It used to be that one of the most viewed images at my Flickr page was a photograph of the old electric chair at the Texas State Prison Museum. Smoldering death must be pretty engaging because “Old Sparky” has been viewed by more than 10,000 people.
But it turns out death is not as engaging as the ravages of advancing age.
My birthday was the other day. It wasn’t one of the big momentous ones. But I thought it might be a good day to roll out a self-portrait I did a few months ago while working on my environmental portraiture technique.
When you don’t have a model to work with, you have to be your own model. One of the challenges in this is that if you are acting as both model and photographer, it’s tough to get proper focus. But I like how I lighted this image and the focus, while not tack sharp, is passable enough that it made the point I wanted to make about myself at this time of life.
I thought my friends might chuckle over the picture. I was unshaven. My hair was tussled. I didn’t smile because I’m not a fan of smiling portraits and because I was aiming for a serious guy look and for truth. Nothing kills truth and serious guy like a smile.
Friends did rib me about the picture. Marjorie said I could have at least combed my hair and shaved. Julie said this looks like the “book jacket photo of a celebrated novel by a war hero.” Old classmates suggested that I appear to be living up to all of the worst curmudgeonly possibilities of my new age. I’m okay with that, though. Besides, some of the classmates have preceded me into this new age by a few months. They understand whereof I speak.  
What I didn’t count on was that Flickr’s Explore page would find this self-portrait worth highlighting. So while my wife cringes at the thought of such a slovenly photo of myself cast out into the world, as of this writing more than 30,000 people have clicked on the image to get a closer and larger look. (If you’re numerically challenged, that’s three times as many people as clicked on “Old Sparky.”) Many have wished me well and several whose opinions I respect have discerned the presence of truth and serious guy in the portrait.
And if that isn’t enough, there’s a woman from the Middle East (whose comments I had to consult Google to interpret) who thinks I look like George Clooney. I don’t know if that means Clooney’s looking haggard these days or that I’m looking younger. But I’ll take it. Given that to have drawn that connection means she must be writing in from some very culturally bereft place, it just seems cruel to deny her that fantasy.