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Picture Perfect; Developing Sadie Hawkins photos
Topic Started: Mar 30 2016, 06:48 PM (586 Views)
Slam
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((Sandy Bricks pregame start))

Sandy held the final print up in the red light of the school’s dark room, squinting in the dimness to see how it had turned out. It was okay, he guessed.

He clipped it to the drying line, where an array of photos from the Sadie Hawkins were arranged, featuring smiling couples, rowdy stag goers, and plenty of high school memories. To him though, he couldn’t help but look and see them as somewhat hollow.

Maybe he was being overly perfectionist; maybe he didn’t really get into the spirit because he only went to the dance to take photos for the yearbook; or maybe the pictures were just bad. Standing there, staring at them with his knuckle pressed to his lip, was doing very little to make them look any better.

He let out a sigh. If nothing else, they would probably be alright for the yearbook, and he was mostly just experimenting with the black and white shots in the first place. He’d brought two cameras to the dance: one from home and one borrowed from the school. The digital shots on the latter would, with any luck, turn out better. Even then, the glow from all the decoration at the space themed dance was somewhat lost on the monochrome prints, and it added an air of seriousness to something that was supposed to be casual and fun.

Yeah, now that he could see what he’d created, it was feeling like a flop. If they were for himself rather than the school, he’d throw these out and call it quits.

He turned away from the prints, chewing on his knuckle again as he thought what to do. He still had the second set of photos to go through, but at this point a creeping doubt was souring his opinion of them. The poor decision was digging into him, but he couldn’t tell if he was just overreacting to an honest mistake.

After struggling to make up his mind for long enough, he took down the string of photos and left the darkroom for the photo lab. He needed a second opinion at this point, and fortunately he wasn't the only one working on Sadie Hawkins shots that morning.

“Hey, can I get your opinion on these?”
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“Sure, thanks.” he said, heading over to Nadia’s computer and taking a quick look at what she was working on. Nothing that wowed him especially, but it had a lot more character than his shots. Again, the colour was probably bringing out a lot more that the people couldn’t by themselves.

“Mm, yeah, looks good.” He muttered in a tone that perhaps sounded just a little bit like a platitude. It did look fine, fine enough for yearbook, but it wasn’t jumping off the screen at him. Wasn’t a comment on Nadia’s work, just on this shot in particular.

“So these are what I’ve got.” He laid his set of prints out on the table, pushing the keyboard back and out the way. He looked over them again, hoping that with a little more time they might’ve improved, but ending up being left disappointed.

“I dunno, I wanted to see how it turned out in black and white but it just looks really flat and dull to me. I mean, they’re supposed to be having fun but I can’t really feel like there’s a lot of motion going on with these shots, you know?”

“Like, look at this one.” he pointed at a somewhat mismatched couple, the girl at least a foot shorter than the guy, holding hands with an awkward expression plastered on the latter’s face. However, from Sandy’s perspective, what should’ve been a playful tease was just a frozen facet of empty stillness. “Do they look like they’re awkward but happy? I saw that when I took the picture but there’s none of that in here.”

“Or this one.” This time he was pointing at a pair of wallflowers, one of them trying to coax the other to hit the dance floor. Again, the promise of some social excitement that followed a period of shy hesitation hadn’t been captured at all. “Do they look like they’re about to come out of their shells to you? I do not see two people coming out of their shells here.”

He looked back at Nadia, giving her a face that urged her to agree with him. He needed validation that what they were looking at was total crap; at least that way he'd know for sure what he'd done here was total crap.
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Sandy sharpened his glare at the pictures again as Nadia gave her summary. So what if people could see them as happy? He needed to be 100% sure that that was what people would see, and empty maybes were not his style. Similarly, all the negative space to the right of the wallflowers was just a slap in the face that he couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed before. In his hurry not to miss the shot he must’ve gotten the angle wrong, but that did not make him feel at all better.

“Ugh, you’re right.” He groaned, pulling the picture up off the table and giving it a disgusted look. Sure they could edit it with Photoshop, but he hated having to use computers for this sort of thing: it just felt wrong to him, like it was cheating and taking away the authenticity of the art. “Way too much empty space on the right; this is no good.”

It wasn’t unusual for Sandy to gloss over positive feedback and focus on the negatives. There were plenty of reasons for him to do so (his brain chemistry, his artistic sensibilities, just his general attitude), but that didn’t change the fact that it made it all the harder for him to actually feel satisfied with his work most of the time. When it came to him and feedback, Sandy was something of a grumpy minefield: one misplaced comment away from sulking in your face.

He carelessly tossed the photo back onto the desk, looking away from Nadia for a moment to take another bite of his knuckle. Then he pulled up another photo.

“Ok, so here’s these two at the buffet table, right?” he pointed between the girl in what would've been a pinky red dress if the photo had colour, and the guy she was with. “Casual and enjoying themselves.” which was what you’d want, people came to the dance for a casual fun time. He had to look at the photo for a few more moments before he could find its fatal flaw. “But it looks boring to me, cause that’s all they’re doing.”
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Sandy cocked an eyebrow at Nadia. Why she thought a chocolate strawberry was the solution to this problem, he had to ponder.

He tried to picture the scene: the gal tracing her date’s mouth with the fruity goody, sensually pushing it past his lips as the cocoa flavour preluded the sinfully sweet juice of the strawberry rushing into every ridge and crevice, the warmth of her fingertips not an inch from his lips.

It was a little bit risqué for a yearbook photo, but he supposed it would probably do better. Maybe.

He didn’t like the sentiment that making the photos actually interesting was doomed from the outset, though: this was his failure, not a flaw in the task itself. A better photographer could’ve absolutely captured the precious moments going on at the dance, and Nadia suggesting otherwise was frustratingly condescending. She meant well, he was sure, but he didn’t care to hear it all the same.

“I’m going to skip all of these, at this rate…” he grumbled again, turning his back to Nadia. He didn’t even bother to bring out another shot, having lost any enthusiasm for the collection by now. He really wished that he could just put these through the shredder, rather than forking them over to the yearbook and immortalising this trash. He knew he shouldn’t have volunteered, it never worked out well for him.

“Show me some of yours.”
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Nadia had hit the nail on the head. Nothing screwed up a photo more than the subject knowing that they were on camera: it wasn’t capturing anything authentic or natural, it was just posturing for the picture. That sort of thing wasn’t that much of an issue when he was taking wildlife or scenery shots, which was another reason why he preferred that over taking pictures of people.

“Lose the first one.” He stated simply, before even really considering number two. The former was, after all, worthless from his perspective.

Number two did indeed look raunchier, which turned his mind back to chocolate covered strawberries. The coincidence of his classmates and sexy imagery was not what he’d been expecting when he’d volunteered for this job, nor when he’d developed the photos, but here he was, thinking those exact things. At least there was something coming out of these photos, he supposed.

“It looks alright to me, honestly, but I guess the school might want to tone it down. From the chest up would probably work, I say.”

He took a step back from Nadia, giving the collection of photos in his hand a second chance. They still looked wrong to him, but elements were starting to form in his head. The emotional connections between his classmates, combined with the youthful energy and passion, was on display here. Mix that in with some students grinding on each other, and it all sounded so simple when it came together, and maybe that's what he needed to try and see.

It still probably would’ve looked better in colour, though.

“I think I’m starting to get it now. We need to be looking at these and trying to see how they’re thinking about each other. Relationships, that sort of thing; that’s what I’m seeing here.”
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"Yeah, that sounds about right."

Nadia's list might've summed up just about everything you'd typically expect to see from a dance, but he supposed the task at hand was delivering photos of exactly that. Really, hearing her spell it out like that had killed some more of his interest in this whole collection: his understanding of what needed to go together was, after all, just another vanilla yearbook spread. Apart from faces, more or less indistinguishable from last year's yearbook, and just as indistinguishable from next year's.

It was tough to make this work into anything special.

Hey let out a long sigh, scratching under the front of his hat at his forehead, gently caressing his temples in the same motion. He'd been at these photos for a while, and whilst he could do this for hours if he was interested, this exercise in futility was draining him. It was time for a break.

"I'm going to head off and mull these over." he said to Nadia without making eye contact and instead glancing down at the photos that he'd already seen plenty another time. "We can pick this up again tomorrow or whatever, if you feel like it."

He grabbed up his bag, offering his fellow photographer a small "Seeya." as he headed out the door, not really stopping to consider how few of her photos he'd looked over. Maybe if he was in a better mood he'd have the energy to return the favour, and maybe with a little more time he'd come to realise how inconsiderate he was being, but for now he really just needed some time to get out of there and brood.

((Sandy Brooks continued elsewhere))
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