This was part of my valentines day gift to my lady. We don't take many pictures together, simply because I don't feel as if i'm very photogenic. It's a common bond that we both share. So, I thought to myself, "lets take some". We took Tintypes. Read about them here. The photographic technique made famous in the late 1800's to capture an individual in time, while also showing ones wealth, prizes, and possessions. It's basically a postiive image on a thin sheet of iron, coated in lacquer. The technique is explained in the article. So to my point...
We arrive at Rayko in San Francisico to have our photos taken. We're able to see a few of the photos/couples taken before us to get a bit of inspiration on exactly how couples were going about poses to get their photos taken. All couples were creative. Some had stern glares, some had their dog in the photo, and some were even naked. However, all images gave off the same feel of a new aged individual in 1885. I had no reason to believe (or so I thought) my photo wouldn't come out just fine. Never EVER would I have thought that the photo would have been offensive, right? I mean, how could it??
Dude (the photographer) comes in and asked us if we have practiced our photo in front of a mirror that they provided with adequate lighting in the studio where the shot was to take place. We gave him the green light. We then line our toes up on the tape on the floor and get in position. Count down, 3, 2, 1, fire! Bright flash, smoke off the flash, intense heat and a requested hold of pose for 1, 2, 3. Photographer immedialty takes the photo in the back (for processing I assume) and in about 5 mins he returns with the photo in a tray with some photo solution in which the tintype lies exposed for the first time. My eyes roll across, and almost began to water. Why? The only thing that I am able to think is : I look like a slave.
Immediately I'm overwhelmed with embarrassed and am uncontrollably mortified. And worst than all, I felt like I’ve ruined what was supposed to be sweet gesture, for my lady. I asked her, “whats wrong with this image”? She says “nothing, I think its great”! You see, be it that she’s not from the U.S., she wouldn’t see the glaring imagery which I see as undeniable. I then told her “I look like a slave”, and she began to laugh. This laugh, which did sting initially, than subsided because I realized that she was laughing at how ridiclous my reaction was. Still, I felt strongly about the image, so I called Brett.
Brett Jensen. My man, 100 Grand. One of my greatest friends ever, period. He keeps it straight with me. I can rely on him to give me the truth, whether harsh or not. I prefaced him by letting him know that what I was about to show him really upset me and that I may be offended, however his honesty is the only thing I’m seeking here. I text him the image, and he basically didn’t notice why I felt the way that I did (side note, Brett is caucasian, and was born and bread in the US). In fact, not only did he not agree with me, he actually like the picture. But then we began to talk and he basically said following (paraphrasing here) :
"Do you automatically look at an old-time photo, and begin to think what your life would have been like if you lived at that time?? Yeah, tin types remind us of times past but nothing else in this particular photo fits your knee jerk reaction to this photo of yourself. Getting your photo taken in that time, wearing cloths you wear proud was a social statement of your wealth and status. Even more if you were black. Now I can’t stand from your perspective. I can’t tell you how you should react, or how your emotions should sway, but I felt zero of the vibe that you felt when looking at the exact same image. But here’s the quote that makes brett different, and this deserves to be quoted....
That statement was one of the truest statements I’ve ever. How often does one look at an image of themselves and immediately judge in favor of negative. Even when one finds themselves socially acceptable, (aka self acceptable), how long does it take them to admit it aloud, if ever? Or, you take a photo of someone you think is a beautiful capture, they see it and want to delete it off your camera so you can’t keep it? Because that's how they see themselves. Truth is, and people forget this… you NEVER see yourself. You have to trust the image that a camera, or a mirror reflect. It’s the world that sees you honestly. Thats a right the world has and your ability to ever see how beautiful you really are is forever revoked.
In closing. I’m proud of this image. I might look like a slave because my face is extremely dark. I might look like a slave because my lips are extremely white, and they seem to be larger than normal. And I might look like a slave because of the age in which the photo was taken. But slaves weren't allowed to have beautiful woman of fair complexion who adore them, openly and freely. Slaves had very little to be proud of at the time, and my look shows nothing but pride. And if anything, it doesn’t look like I’m about to be sold. If anything, it looks like I purchased the right to forever be proud of our image together!