A little over a week ago, I did an open call for reader content to tell the story of the picture below. It is flowing like MUD around here, kids. I DID get one (ONE!) submission and I love it so I'm going to share this and remind everyone you have until Tuesday, 8/6 to submit. Otherwise - $25 in Jason's Deli dough goes to the guy below (who you will formally "meet" when the contest is over) . . .
She wanted to look nice. It's an easy thing to have your picture taken. It's another thing entirely to have a portrait ‘made’. The Alumni association at Linda's alma mater had called two weeks earlier informing her of an upcoming profile in “Around the Oval”. ‘ATO’, as it’s known to alums who still care about what college they went to, is a quarterly-ish publication full of birth announcements, new building plans, requests for money, and one or two ‘where are they now’ style profiles of former students. It’s printed with a full-color glossy cover wrapped and saddle stitched around cheap newspaper stock. She was floored. This would be HUGE for her. She spoke the way she typed - emphasizing words in ALL CAPS. She recited her email address - firstname.lastname@example.org. A few days later, the office emailed her a boilerplate questionnaire which she promptly filled out. “Please attach a photo — high resolution - - - in bitmap (.bmp), ‘j-peg’ (.jpg), or Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf) format - - - No WORD documents” She wanted to look nice. Everyone in her graduating class would be reading this the next time a quarter came around. She had never been in ATO before. No birth announcements in the “Future Rams” section. No mention in the donors section, even though a small bit of what she made as a nurse was pulled out each pay period. She needed a new photo. All of her heavily vetted Facebook photos had been recently been cropped to remove her ex-husband. This was a NEW START. It couldn’t have come at a better time for her. At the hospital a colleague reminded Linda that her son was ‘real big into photography’ after she had bought him a new camera. “Would he be interested in taking my portrait?” She emphasized ‘portrait’. “Of course he would!” The pre-natal nurse squealed. “Here’s his phone number. Text him!” Linda did. The son texted Linda a link to his portfolio. Rural scenes of fenceposts and barbed-wire, entwined with urban shots of rusty street signs and graffiti riddled train cars. It was GOOD. They settled on a price and location. $100 and Fossil Creek Park on the west side of town. “Where something nice”, he texted. Wrong ‘where’. The day before ‘the shoot’ - she called it that - was a fever of haircuts and manicures. The day of the shoot she tried on every dress in her closet. It had been a while since she wore any of them, but she was thankful they still mostly fit. She chose a blue dress that had been doing well for her at the bar her girlfriends had been taken her to. It had a deep plunge in the front, but compared to her competition it was harmless. Linda met her friend’s son at the park. He had a real camera with him. It had a big lens and a black strap with “Nikon” embroidered with bright yellow thread. “I’m Jason”, he said thrusting an awkward hand towards her. “Linda”, she said. “Ready to start?”, he said, eyeing the center of her blue dress. “Sure!” While they were walking around the park looking for a “cool place”, she told him all about the write up, and what college was like. He half listened, eye darting around looking for a place to take his first paid photograph. “Here” he said. It was a park table. “The light is cool looking” It was, kind of. Linda position herself comfortably while Jason made a big show of looking at his light meter. He didn’t know how to use it, but people never questioned it. He looked like he knew how to use it. “Ready?” he asked, quickly “Yup!” She smiled and he quickly moved around her like a moth, the sound of the shutter making little moth sounds. After 56 ‘portraits’ he showed her the screen on the back of the camera. She frowned. “Wow. Do I really look that old?”, she asked. “I think they look good.” Of course he would. He was a professional. “Do you want to move to a different place?” “No,” she said, and after a slight pause, “Do you think I look pretty in those portraits?” He blushed and dropped his head.” “I. . . uh, yeah, I mean. Yeah. You look good.” She lifted her hand and scooped the dress off her shoulder. A simple style that used to carry with it a sense of elegance. “There!”, she said giggling and proud. “Take a few more like this. It makes me feel Cuban or something” More moth sounds. “I err umm I think we got it. “ “Great! When can I see them?” “I’ll email them to you?” he asked. “Oh don’t send all of them, just pick the best one and send it to this email”, she said as she dug through her purse looking for a pen. “I’ll tell the Alumni office to keep an eye out for it.”