Why am I hiding behind my camera?

When I signed up for Facebook, I was immediately “faced” with a huge problem: I had no photos of my face. None. That was because I was always behind the camera instead of in front of it. I took pictures of my friends, my kids, my kids with my husband, my kids with my parents or parents-in-law or other relatives or classmates.

(Occasionally, my feet or arms wound up in the picture, too, but there wasn’t a single photo of my face. That’s a big problem on Facebook because people want to see, well, your face. After all, it’s not called “Armbook” or “Footbook.”)

I thought about this recently when I read the novel The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. One of the main characters, Midas Crook, hides behind his camera. He is a socially inept man who prefers to view the world through his camera lens.

It’s safer there.

His one romantic relationship ended when he realized that he was only attracted to the version of the woman he had caught on film, not the living and breathing woman that she was when his camera was put away. Instead of social interaction, he has film and black-and-white photos and people reduced to what slow light and silver nitrate make them.

People are easier to deal with when they are flat and two-dimensional.

3-D people can be disturbing: knowing all three dimensions of them forces me to share all three dimensions of myself. Scary.

Recently, a friend remarked that she enjoyed my blog posts because I’m so “transparent.” I’d love to think that I really am transparent, that my blog readers know the real me, that my life is an open book.

Sure, my life is an open book . . . in a foreign language.

All too often, I’ve hidden myself from other people. I hide . . .

  • behind a camera because being in front of it means I might be captured in an unflattering pose;
  • behind a book (either someone else’s or my own) because characters in a book are easier to deal with than real life people;
  • behind a computer screen, “connected” on the Internet, because it’s easier to connect with other people when I can disconnect with them just as easily by shutting down the computer.

An actual person won’t go away if I click a mouse or turn a page or delete a photo on my digital camera. Like Midas Crook, I often prefer two-dimensional people to three-dimensional, and for the same reason: intimately knowing others can be terrifying.

About halfway through the book, Midas has an epiphany:

He imagined dying and being cut open and there were all his bones and muscles and his bared arteries and capillaries leading to a cavity in his chest where, instead of a heart, he had his camera.

For too long, he has defined himself and others by photography; now he must decide if he is willing to take the risk of setting aside his camera and learning to love other people.

What would an autopsy show within me: a camera … a book … a computer… or a heart?

What would it show within you?

More to the point, what are you going to do about it?

Even more to the point, why are you still on the Internet? Shut down that computer and go talk to a real person.

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8 thoughts on “Why am I hiding behind my camera?

  1. Hi, Laura. I enjoyed meeting you in person, and now I’m enjoying your blog, too.

    The Ali Shaw novel sounds like a good read for an introvert, as most writers are. I’ll try to find it. I’m always looking for a good new book to read. Yep, that’s what an autopsy would find in me…. a book! πŸ™‚

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    1. Hi, Meg. I’ve put your blog on my iGoogle listings! Thanks for subscribing to my blog. πŸ™‚ It was really good to meet you in person, too. I came away rather overwhelmed by all the info/advice I got and listened to Chip and Jim give us, but it’s good to have all my notes and start to put their advice to work for me.

      The Ali Shaw novel was really interesting. I wasn’t sure if I liked the characters at first, but they grew on me. Just be forewarned that there is some bad language and a tiny bit of not-terribly-explicit sexual content. I say that because I know not everyone cares for that sort of thing.

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  2. Yes, wasn’t the seminar great? I loved the practicality of it.

    Thanks for the warning about the Ali Shaw novel. I’ll still try to find it. I’m pretty forgiving of bad language, etc., if it’s in a story for a good reason.

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    1. I’m not sure if the bad language is in there for a good reason. Seems like it’s becoming so common for the f-word to show up in mainstream/literary fiction that I’m actually surprised when it doesn’t show up. Sad.

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  3. One of my daughters commented that there were always pictures of the grandchildren after one of my visits but rarely any of them with me because I was always the photographer. As Meg says, many writers are introverts so putting themselves “out there” is hard. Hiding behind something is so much more comfortable. I once wrote about hiding behind a mask (http://wp.me/phaYw-3M) because that’s what I sometimes do. I’m normally a very private person. I originally started blogging as a fledgling attempt to get used to being visible as a writer. I’m not sure what an autopsy would find in me… maybe a mirror to reflect glances away from me??? πŸ˜‰

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    1. It’s hard for me to let people know the “real” me. On some topics, I can be very open and honest; others, not so much. Masks are incredibly comfortable for me! Hopefully if more of us stop hiding, others will know that it’s okay to open up to safe people.

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