My husband and I love to joke how in the 80s people didn’t care near as much what they looked like as they do today. Just watch 80s TV. Hair was often messy. Junk was stuffed into bookshelves. People didn’t clean and tidy before being captured on film. This is why I love, love, love candid shots. Of others. Of myself. They aren’t posey or some image people want others to have of them. They’re how life actually played out. Or a sliver of it at least.
My latest book, The After Glimpse zooms in on a few significant photographs. These photographs become larger than life to my main characters—and in some ways take on a life of their own. I ached to explore the whole concept of pictures and how we react to them.
Amy Tan, in her memoir, Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir, fleshes out more thoughts on the topic. “I used to think photographs were more accurate than bare memory because they capture moments as they were, making them indisputable. They are like hard facts, whereas aging memory is impressionistic and selective in details, much like fiction is. But now, having gone through the archives, I realize that photos also disorder what is really being captured. To get the best shot, the messiness is shoved to the side, the weedy yard is out of the shot. The images are also missing context . . . what happened before and after, who likes and dislikes whom, if anyone is unhappy to be there. When they heard ‘cheese,’ they uniformly stared at the camera’s mechanical eye, and put on the happy mask . . . I keep in mind the caveat that I should question what I see and what is not seen.”
There’s a twist in my book. There are life-changing events that took place while photographs were taken. Not all is depicted. Then again, more is going on in photographs that could ever logically occur as well. I appreciated toying with this idea of how there’s always more to the story than what’s right in front of us.
Long live candid shots!
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