This post is dedicated to Bonnie, who has looked for lost earrings with me since we were children.
I’m running down the street in my green dress boats, heading to the park a block away from my house, where I’ve got an appointment with a professional photographer. When I arrive panting, she’s waiting for me in the parking lot and I tap her car window to let her know I’m here.
“Can you give me just a minute?” I say after introducing myself. “I’m looking for my earrings.” I yank my bag off my shoulder and dig frantically for the pair I hope are in there. The ones Stan made from the handle of our old barbeque before we took it to the dump.
“Oh no!” I say. “I can only find one! Well, it’s all I’ve got. I’ll just wear it and hope my hair covers the other side.”
Lori, the photographer, has only just met me and doesn’t say much. Perhaps she doesn’t want to criticize her client’s fashion sense, or maybe she’s trying to figure a way to calm the woman she has to capture on camera.
Last week, after I got a cheque in the mail for a published piece of writing, I googled Lori Trost Photography and decided to invest the cash in some professional photos. I needed a decent head shot to go along with my bio when submitting articles and was tired of making my kids work a miracle with our cheap camera. But despite my business rational, I am still self-conscious about the whole thing. I feel silly posing by myself and hope no one else sees us. Surely they will wonder at such a frivolous and self-indulgent woman.
The sun isn’t out like I hoped it would be. I know these trails well, know how the setting sun makes the dogwood willows shine and warms everything with its buttery light. But not today. Lori smiles and says it will be okay. I touch my hand to my hair and tell her that I’d been skiing, moments before our session, and was hoping the sweaty toque hadn’t wrecked my style. She laughs. I laugh too, and hear the click of the camera. She asks me to spin around and let my blue poncho fly in the wind. I do and she snaps some more.
“What’s your favourite subject to photograph?” I ask Lori.
“Women,” she responds right away. I can tell she is speaking from her heart and not the persona of a salesperson. I understand, now, at the end of our session how she might feel this way. How rewarding it might be to see a woman who is always behind the camera, or posing with children at their celebrations (birthdays, graduations, weddings…), bloom in a moment of her own. In the last 20 minutes Lori has taken me from I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this to I-feel-pretty-twirling-around-in-the-snow. In fact, I start to make a list of all the mothers and women I know who definitely need a professional shoot. Whose families need pictures of the woman in their life before the obituary shot. And how I want to gift them with 20 minutes of Lori and her camera.
Two days later Lori drops off the USB stick with the pictures. My stomach knots up, as I dread the upcoming images, but when they appear on screen I am somewhat relieved. Despite the fact the pictures look just like me (was I hoping for a magical transformation?) I am happy. Mostly. Except for the missing earring. The rest of my family circles around the monitor, as if watching breaking news, and ooh and aah while Vivi laughs. I suspect it’s the very idea of her mother being all alone that she finds so hilarious.
“Why…” Stan trails off while clicking through the files. “Why didn’t you wear…”
“Two earrings?” I finish for him. “I was rushed, I thought it wouldn’t matter.”
And then I groan at myself. What was I thinking? Why couldn’t I have prepared a little better. Can a person photo-shop in an earring? And my hair. It looks like I just skied a few miles in a toque, which I did, but now I’m chagrined. I should have done what other people would do before spending money on photos. I should’ve attempted to style my hair or used machines or tools or rollers or spray or something.
“Maybe you could play a game with people? Like, What’s Missing in This Picture?” someone suggests.
“Well, it makes the selection process easier. There are plenty you can use where it’s not noticeable,” says another.
After scrolling through them 2 or 3 times I decide not to investigate photo-shopping. Perhaps no one will notice. Or perhaps they will. Maybe I will write about it and realize this is simply my real life. That lost earrings and toque hair are me. And that they show who I am better than matching jewellery and a coiffed hairdo. Every time I look at these pictures I will remind myself about authenticity and accepting imperfection. And maybe I will laugh.
Thank you Lori for your work and sharing your creative gifts!
*I’m curious about failure. This post is written in the spirit of my 30-day blog experiment in which I observed moments of failure and recorded scenes without adding further commentary. Read more in the introduction to the series here.