If you look like your passport photo, you probably need the trip!’ This quote revived memories of posing before a camera, going through a gamut of ‘un-photogenic’ expressions. The seedy photographer in a cramped room adjusted the angles of my chin(s), patted a stray lock of hair down and barked, “Blue or white?” My confused look went down for posterity’s sake. Till today I know not whether my passport photograph boasts of a blue background or white. I would rather not glance at the abomination.
My driving licence picture was no better. “Sit down,” was the photographer’s command and as I made a move, the flash caught me in suspended animation, like a deer in headlights, or more factually, a startled fish trying to breathe.
The most constipated photos were taken before tacky backdrops — a garish forest scene or an unreal Taj Mahal. The funniest were during marriage feasts, when photographers captured the exact moment when a person had his mouth wide open to gobble down that enormous, well-rolled mound of rice, or the next, when he had deposited the said mound inside, and couldn’t keep his mouth closed over it. Wedding photographs were fascinating specimens with the couple enshrined in pink hearts, with warbling birds and clouds, even shots of them flying to their honeymoon in a fake plane.
The black-and-white era was punctuated by grim-faced, ‘stiff as a bedpost’ poses, especially in photographs of a patriarchal husband sitting on a throne, submissive wife standing alongside, indicating who wore the pants in the family!
Family portraits saw a dozen senior members, parked on chairs, while the remaining 64 stood, in various frozen poses with bizarre expressions. Most of these photographs are still crystal clear on Facebook, posted by one or the other of the babies in the picture, marked, ‘Guess who?’
Amazing comments and anecdotes get dredged up as the elders wax eloquent on precious memories, enlivening life for the youngsters, who grin at the antics of ‘so-called’ staid uncles and aunts, often goldmines of information, like venerable elephants raised on Memorex.
Have the fun and the spontaneity of clicking photographs disappeared with the invention of the digital camera? Earlier you got one picture which you had to lump — good, bad or ugly. Today, people cluck over myriad photos, delete if not good and photoshop, if not good enough.
However, the joy in clicking photographs is in making time stand still, especially when it involves beloved faces that have disappeared over the years. Today when I see an old photograph of my father in his younger days, and read comments posted by his loved ones, it opens a whole new chapter on a well-loved past, unravelling hidden threads to reveal the person he was much before he became my father... and that is akin to reading an Agatha Christie mystery.
Exciting is the giant photo album that is Facebook. No longer do old pictures moulder or get devoured by silver fish. They come alive when rejuvenated, awakening old memories and new. One picture is worth a thousand words, after all!