Yesterday I received a private message through Facebook from someone I know only peripherally. She was livid at me for a series of photographs of an event that I took that were not focused on her but contained one picture - one - of her.
I will spare you the gory details that evidence this person's borderline personality traits in what she chose to say, but to sum up, she was pissed because (1) there was only one picture of her, and (2) it was a picture in which she looked ugly. Therefore, it was to be concluded that I had done so out of malice and spite against her (did I mention I know her only peripherally?). Of course.
And that being the Absolute Truth in her mind, I needed therapy to help me with (a) my sharp tongue and (b) my lesbianism.
I see . . .
I will, of course, admit the sharp tongue. Sadly, I do not always have a filter and more so, if a joke presents itself, I will always go for the humor. I was once in conversation with a priest who was telling me of his upcoming trip to Polynesia and made a jest about becoming a human sacrifice, thrown in a volcano by the natives. Aware of this priest's past and proclivities, I seriously looked at him and said, "Oh no, Father - they use a virgin for that."
Shut up, I went to Confession afterwards . . .
Pictures are very personal. As seen in my story above, they can trigger powerful emotions. I have been going through decades worth of photos to finally place them in envelopes with some approximation of the date and what was going on. It is not an easy process, as certain pictures of the past evoke feelings of loss, sadness, and regret. But they are also reminders of good times. And the perspective is in the eye of the beholder. I have written here before about Martin Seligman's book, Authentic Happiness, and the point it makes that the past only has an effect on us today according to how we choose to see it. If we make the conscious effort to highlight the good and minimize the bad - we will be happier. And this is important to keep in mind when viewing photographs. Photographs belong to the past. You can look at a picture and think, "God, I look fat," or you can laugh and say, "Look who I'm with, I remember that day and the fun we had!"
One of my greatest regrets is not going through my old photos sooner while certain family members were alive, so I could ask about people and places. But that cannot be undone and for a future descendant (hopefully), I want that there will be more than a collection of megapixels on a DVR. As Rod Stewart sang, "Every picture tells a story, don't it?" Don't let the story get lost.
Look at this picture below. A guy with a cup of coffee, right?
Let's try this:
His name is Hasan. The picture was taken in 1978 and he was an Algerian who was a student with me at New York University then. We had Russian class together - that's where this picture was taken. He is drinking coffee from Chock Full o' Nuts and I remember it was just down the block and I bought my coffee there, too. Hasan spoke excellent English and I told me how he learned it just about a year before this picture was taken by buying newspapers and watching the news, knowing the broadcasters would be talking about the stories in the paper and he could make a connection on key words, and see how it was written and how it was spoken. A fellow from my high school, Frank Forlini, was also in our class and he, Hasan, and I had a joke about making a short film - "The Running of Greene Street" - that would feature cliched and silent characters with some pretentious score playing in the background, just because we were hip and snarky and hanging around Greenwich Village.
True story. Just typing that makes me feel good about the fun we had in that class. Now, I know that deranged woman who sent me that message on Facebook probably is not capable of looking at her picture and doing the same. Pity. I was sad last night looking at old photos. I am taking a different tack - each one I see, I will take a moment to think about something good regarding it before I look at it and say, "Oh, that dickhead!" or anything else negative. Try it, it works.