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I am a camera…

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Steve Gaines is colorful on stage, which works well with the camera...


August 25, 2011

It’s yet another expression that floats in and out of my consciousness from time to time. I find myself saying it more and more as I wander the countryside snapping away. Years ago, while working for a different newspaper, I consistently got the same note at staff meetings: “decent copy, lousy pictures.” Outraged, I defended myself by insisting that I am not a photographer, but a writer who is forced to take pictures along the way.

“Get better!” I was told, so off I went, in search of skills I had no desire to hone. Little did I know that photography would become an integral part of my daily life, or that my instructions to “get better” would become all-consuming. Taking a “point and click” class at night, paired with a determination to add another line to my resume, combined to spark what is now a mild obsession with the lens, and my desire to “get better” grows daily, as I observe the world through a (sometimes filtered) lens.

“I Am a Camera” (with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking) is the first line of Christopher Isherwood’s novel “Goodbye to Berlin,” which inspired a play, a film, a song and a little musical called “Cabaret.” How fitting, then, that I spend the better part of my days taking pictures of (and writing about) plays, films, musicals and songs. This week being no exception, I headed off to Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) to photograph someone not usually on my radar: Kid Rock.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been described as “quite passive,” but “not thinking” seems apropos as I pulled out my trusty tripod, signed my life away for Kid’s “people” and made my way down to the proscenium. Warnings of intense heat and pyrotechnic displays rang in my head as I tried to focus, attempting to get a shot while Mister Rock strutted the stage, leaping about and playing every conceivable instrument for a packed, stoked, rockin’ crowd.

“Stand still!” I screamed over the roaring crowd, knowing that I had a brief time to accomplish my goal, frustrated at how (suddenly) difficult it seemed to snap a still, since “motionless” is not in Kid’s vocabulary. When he (finally) stopped for a moment he said, “Thank you for coming out and spending your hard-earned money to support us.”