We choose the views we frame. With cameras or with our eyes. This evergreen photo, for example, looks pleasantly cool, yet this was a day of record-breaking heat (85°) for early April in Colorado. It was too hot; I cut my walk short.
The photo is the eastern corner of the Madam C.J. Walker pocket park, a few blocks from my home, the tiny park itself surrounded by houses, residential streets. There’s a playground on the unseen side. It was populated by half a dozen teenagers who probably should have been in class. A tall thin boy was making karate or maybe Obi Wan Kenobi movements with his hands near a girl’s face. She was shrieking and everyone else was laughing, but she clearly wasn’t interested in moving away from him. “Ohmygod!” she shrieked, every time he waved his arms. A budding romance.
I paused to take the photo because it was the only shaded spot on my path. I had been walking about ten minutes when the toast of sun on my shoulders became more like a burn. It snowed last week. I hate transitions, wasn’t ready for this. I moved to a block with more trees, but then remembered they haven’t leafed out yet and every sidewalk was bared to blazing light. It was an upside-down bowl day, baby blue at the horizons and azure up high, in the bottom of the bowl, not a cloud to mar the smoothly graduated matte glaze.
This sign, in front of a parking strip right of way prickled with several kinds of cactus also made me pause. Several of these cacti were waist-high, quite conspicuous. Was there a chance someone would not see them and walk into that spiny trap?
At the grocery store this week, Phil took note of a section of pears with a label that said apples. “Hey, Kevin,” he called and showed it to the produce guy. “Luckily, we can tell those are not apples.” Kevin laughed. “Some can’t. I better fix it.” Later we ran into Michelle, stocking cereals, started to tell her the story. “Oh, plenty of people don’t know the difference,” she interrupted right away. Apparently, grocery staff often experience stupefying customer ignorance. I contemplated that cactus with its dangerous multitude of minute daggers. People being who they are, I suppose the warning sign is warranted.
My walk has ugly sights. It’s an inner-city neighborhood after all. But my camera is beauty-seeking because I am. This charming little house sits on the corner of 26th, a busy route to downtown. I made sure the street wasn’t visible and waited until no cars were passing. The playing fields of Manual High School are on the other side of 26th, but I avoided the big red and blue “M” logo on their fence. They’ve added “BL” in front of it. Well done. The mountains rose dusty blue in the distance, their peaks still snowy. If I’d inched to the left, the next-door house would have been visible, and the cars parked in front of it. If I backed up half a block, downtown’s skyscrapers fill the western horizon over this house’s peaked roof. I shut all of that out.
Photos sometimes lie. We choose what we frame, put the best face on things, make everyone smile, but that’s not always the truth. These days, with rampant social media manipulation, we especially need to remember that. In this shot, the little house could be in a rural setting. I don’t want to be in a rural setting; I’m a city person to the bone. But I’m just as subject to romanticizing the bucolic as anyone else. I like this photo anyway, with a nod to its deceptive presentation.
Got a fake photo story? Post it in the comments.
For too many people these days the lie is easily accepted because it fits their predilections. Social and Mass Media have facilitated the pandemic of lies and those who are disaffected, isolated and only able to live on the fringe are now feeding on the paranoid fantasies they’ve been cooking in their minds for so long. The effort to seek out Truth is a difficult path.
Well said, Normandosky. And besides that, we all have our stereotypes, whether conscious or not, and they influence us. Just yesterday, I was surprised when a friend sent a photo of delicious-looking spring rolls—from her vacation in Baja. And surprised in spite of the fact that I’ve had excellent sushi in Mexico City.
You point to this variety of framing by exclusion in your thoughtful reflection, but fakery abounds in pictures I take around outside our house. In this rural, not-so-developed place, the impulse to edit out signs of people and the built environment is near-automatic. Not sure what the story is there, but perhaps I ought to try to figure it out.
An essayist’s question if I ever heard one, Andrea. I look forward to reading your results.