Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Party Or The Pictures

When a girl turns fifteen in Hispanic culture, she has a quincenara, a religious ceremony followed by a huge party where she dresses up and her entry into womanhood is celebrated. With the ritual, the girl's family hires a professional photographer to document what she looks like at this time in her life. The whole party costs a lot of money as do the pictures so more and more frequently, the girl has to choose between having the pictures or having the ceremony. Most girls choose the pictures that make it look as if she'd had the event over the actual event. Which strikes me as truly post-modern and bizarre. Until I consider how many times I've chosen the artificial over the real, the fake over the actual. Like the old Saturday Night Live line, it's more important to look marvelous over feeling that way.

During the rough times in my life, I find myself narrating as if to distance myself and assure myself that I will write about the experience at some point. We know inherently that documenting a thing changes it. This is why reality television doesn't really exist. And this begs the question about photographs -- if you have proof of an experience, does it make it real? I look at old photographs, some staged, some candid and think about the past, try to piece it together even as I'm cutting parts out to fit my version of the story.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Silver makes everything into nothing." Andy Warhol

Cocktail Hour
Drinking novel suggestion: Music Without Words Ann Packer

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!


Anonymous said...

When a girl turns thirteen in Jewish culture, she has a Bat Mitzvah, a religious ceremony followed by a huge party where she dresses up and her entry into womanhood is celebrated.

And if the put-upon father of the girl, who has already spent a small fortune on Hebrew classes for the kid for the past five years even hints to the mother of the kid that the family should choose between pictures and the actual ceremony, the father will soon find himself in a studio apartment while still paying for the Bat Mitzvah through alimony and child support payments because his ex-wife knew a better Jewish attorney than he did.

How do I sign up to be a member of the Hispanic culture?

bearly domesticated boneman said...

photos are but illusions
Realistic as they seem, they no longer exist.

But they help memory.
My favorite pix of Ma were after the Old Man retired.

Jason said...

A friend on facebook recently posted pictures from her Halloween party. In the pics, everyone looked they were taking staged candid shots to make the party look better. Sad.

If you want to narrate your life, that's what Twitter is for. :)

the walking man said...

You have taken more pictures of me than anyone else. I prefer it that way. I would rather not alter memory to fit a picture than have to alter a picture to fit a memory.

Anonymous said...


The Professor said...

Your entry makes me think of John Berger's book, Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos.

It also makes me think of the Hawthorne Effect (Observer Effect). It states that the more we observe something the more we tend to change that thing.

The problem is that time makes memory more fluid. Any series of photos could be put together in all sorts of orders to create some story. The faults of memory (linked to the photo), its biases, make it easier to take facts and construct events in many ways.

jodi said...

Hi Sweets, I tend to search old pics of myself for clues as to what I was thinking at the time. But mostly, I just pick out my flaws. Sheeesh!