Rage Against Styling

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I remember when my mother told me that the beautiful photo spreads in magazines were only part of the whole picture. The other side of the room, she said, was often cluttered with everything removed from within the frame of the photo.

As a kid this was a little hard to take in. I'd been to decorated houses, where the feeling was one of completeness--a comfortable sense of finished. Our own house had this sense to it, after my mother had cleaned, before a dozen legs and little arms came crashing through, upsetting anything set in order. It seemed legitimate to me that the perfect living rooms in Architectural Digest were always that way, perfect, decorated, arranged.

It would be years before I learned the word stylist, or thought much about the people who arranged things to look beautiful for a photo. And then the word came up everywhere I looked. This person was a stylist. That person was a stylist. Learn how to style your coffee table!

I get sucked in. I mean, I even have a styled bar cart. But it makes me a little sick. All this styling. All the arranging, touching up. Photo shoots of any kind make me want to take a nap--and I don't take naps. Leave this to advertisers, I say. People who have something to sell--the idea of completeness lacking from your life. The problem is everyone is trying to sell something, at least everyone I seem to run into.

When I take a picture, I try to avoid touching anything--no arranging, no Photoshop. It's a challenge to arrange myself, my perspective, to get the picture I want, to tell the story at its truest. It's a huge thrill to get that photo, the one with some strange or hilarious or touching thing that would make it totally inappropriate for a photo spread, and so unlike anything anywhere else.

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