Saturday, October 3, 2009

Memory Manipulation: Can Candids Do?

Considering the flood of graduation blog posts, I figured I'd avoid the inevitable and take a slightly different approach, especially since Julie so eloquently stated pretty much everything I could say on the subject in her own insightful post. For those interested, it can be read here: Julie's "End Of An Era" Blogpost. I echo every one of her sentiments, pretty much, so I shall just quickly conclude with the fact that graduation day was the most epic day ever, and that everyone will be thoroughly missed. For additional details, just insert Julie's thoughts here, heh.

Apologies for the length of this post. It turned out far longer than I'd imagined.

Now, with graduation having ended (despite the fact that the HSC exams are still looming), I've grown exceedingly nostalgic, glancing through a myriad of older photos to try and re-live the days now gone. On graduation day alone I took 445 photos, which was downright ridiculous. It was just a marathon of luvos and flashes until my camera died right before we entered the hall for the official ceremony. This brings me to the topic of today's post, however...

Which is better? The forced/organised/preconstructed 'Luvo', or the possibly-terrible-yet-more-authentic candid photograph?

Obviously people want their photos to look good, so that they'll remember the day on which it was taken in a positive fashion. Still, looking through a lot of those 'Luvo' shots, though some look great cause everyone was generally enjoying the day (whether it be graduation day or some time in the past), there are always those other shots where there is something eerie inhabiting the person's expression - that subtle signifier that alerts the viewer to the fact that, yes, this happiness is a tad forced or false. A few pieces of evidence, if you will.

Derek *trying* to appear happy, after the infamous
Lost Space Coyote incident...

Forced 'Luvo' with Jayanie after a massive delay with the camera.

Just two examples. I mean, sure, everyone has a smile on their face, and Derek even has two thumbs up, but these are just a few examples of these disconcerting feelings I find in the odd photograph when someone is told to smile. The one of Derek, firstly, was taken at a time when he was slightly down about losing a painting, so obviously there's a manner of sadness about it despite the smiling facade (especially since Shuang continually brought it up after it had happened, heh). The one with Jayanie was under different circumstances. In this case, the person wasn't necessarily unhappy, but rather (as my camera's battery was dying), the camera was taking ages to actually take the picture, and as a consequence both of us were a little fed up with it, trying to hold a smile and position for at least 10-15 seconds. So, by the time the photo is actually taken, there's a distinct quality of forced emotion in the image, even if the actual mood of the day and time was still generally positive.

These are just examples of how the 'Luvo' can go slightly wrong, in a sense. There are always those posed shots that turn out great, but I'd hazard a guess that, at least some of the time, it was because the people were actually laughing or smiling at the time prior to the photo, and not necessarily doing it because it was just about to be taken. So, in essence, it becomes a slightly truer, yet there's still that haunting element of articifiality, even in those. Now, take the candid...

Sure, there's a greater likelihood that these photos can turn out terrible, that people will be caught at unflattering angles, that their faces will be contorted from a split second of changing expression or speaking. Still, when candid photos do turn out well, I generally tend to favour them over the 'Luvo' which, while it may have a higher "success" rate, they never seem to capture the day in its true entirety, but rather a constructed happiness for future viewing. Take these few candid photos as examples.

Candid of Jacinta from down at the river.
I actually quite like this shot, even if she doesn't.

Candid of laughter from the Easter Show earlier this year.

Now, even though the one of Jacinta was only taken a day or two ago, I know she hated a lot of the more candid ones. It seems some people just prefer those photos where they have complete control over how they look, as well as the fact that people seem to be more critical of how they look in a candid even when it turns out well, possibly just because they didn't choose for it to be taken in that exact position or they aren't directly facing the camera. As for the other shot, personally I find shots of laughter, even if not always the most flattering or slightly blurred, to be far more jubilant and fulfilling to look at than a constructed smile. It just showcases that raw happiness so much better, despite the greater chance of an imperfection due to the random nature of it all.

I'm reluctant to bring Extension English into this, but from studying Life Writing it has taught me this one thing. In the act of writing or creation of a subject, often the persona in which one is portrayed is constructed in much the same matter that the medium is, since they have complete control over both their own portrayal and that of others. I find it to be the same with photographs. It's only when the outcome of the photo is totally out of the control of the subject that any positive sentiments that come out of it can be truly exemplified. A positive shot becomes a thousand times more positive in my book, simply because it was taking at any random point of the day and still showed this sense of positivity - thus, when reviewing later, it gives the impression of an overarching positivity throughout.

So I guess, linking that back to graduation, I'm actually slightly reluctant I didn't take more candids. Well, I did take plenty during the middle of the day around the water-fighting-cardboard-tobogganning-log-standing-forest-exploring escapades. However, as for the actual shots at school, it was more of a frenzied running around to find friends you still hadn't taken a photo with, and due to the time restraints of the day many of them were just a quick 'Luvo' and then we were off. Looking back, sure, a lot of them display a genuine happiness because we're all laughing and having a good time as we pose anyway, but there are those shots that, whilst they look "good", don't necessarily capture the epic nature of the day to the greatest extent.

That's just my opinion though, and I'm sure plenty of people can go either way. I just love embracing the candid, in all the trial-and-error imperfect nature of them, because when you do get that perfect capture...

It's priceless.



  1. Firstly, I think you should continue putting the date of your last update on your PM... saves me following the link every day or so! hehehe. I was waiting for someone to blog about grad, since everyone had already had blogged about pre-grad.

    And I can't agree more with you on this point! I am totally for candid shots. I have a few photos of friends on my camera which I love, because they're not posing whatsoever! The photograph just oozes pure happiness and captures the emotions of the time in such a real manner. The subject of the photograph never really appreciates the photograph because they think it is unforgiving or unflattering! (However, I may be verging on hyprocrisy here...I often make similar complaints)

    Nevertheless, the candid shots actually portray a moment of euphoria, and that's what I like. This is why I have refused to delete any of the photos I took over the last 2 weeks! They are, after all, my property... and I love the candids!It's amazing being able to capture raw, 'unprocessed' emotions on camera. And when I look back at such pictures, I actually get a buzz of happiness!

    haha, equally long comment! :D

  2. Hahaha how fitting. But yes, I also save every single photo unless someone wrestles the camera off me and deletes it (Shuang/Rose/Dora/You/many more often do haha). Otherwise, they lay dormant on my hard drive, even if they never see the light of facebook. It's always amusing to re-look at them at a later date. :D

  3. i love candid shots! even fake candid shots. although you cant live without the luvo. i also wish i had a camera. but my brother said he will help me get an slr as part of his grad/christmas present for me. :D

  4. Howienator would be proud :)
    It was a really nice way to tie in all the emotions felt throughout this week because as they say, a picture tells a thousand words!

    This made me think of all those candids taken during world events and news that shook the world, 911, disasters, Wall Street fall, etc and it really does capture the essence of the moment not a pre-fabricated version of life.

    Guess I'll try to appreciate candid shots more regardless of the hideousness of my face!

  5. I can't believe you didn't mention me in FAME. It was only bearable because I was next to you and was making you laugh and take luvos!! I feel sad now. :(

  6. Hahahaha well in my defense I actually *liked* the movie so it wasn't just you who provided amusement, Salil. :P

  7. I better get a nice long mention in your next update thingy!!