On The InstantaneousFriday, October 24, 2014
My first book purchase when Rosemary, Alexandra, Hilary and I arrived in Vancouver from Mexico City in 1975 was The Random House Dictionary of the English Language – The Unabridged Edition – 1966
I don’t open it much these days with the ready availability of on-line dictionaries. I chose to do so today as a form of illustrating today’s blog on the theme of the over use (in my books) of the word still.
For anybody not acquainted with photography you might not know that the photographer, who shoots (non-moving) photographs when films (the moving kind) are being made, is called the stills photographer.
If you know a bit about art you might recognize the name of the New York-based photographer Cindy Sherman. She achieved international fame with her series Untitled Film Stills, 1977–1980, which consists of 69 black-and-white photographs. The artist poses (they are self-portraits in different roles and settings (streets, yards, pools, beaches, and interiors), producing a result reminiscent of stills typical of Italian neorealist or American film noir of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
I shot stills of CBC variety and drama series at the CBC from 1977 until the early 80s. I always argued (for fun) with the crews that stills came before moving pictures and thus they should be called moves photographers.
Another romantic use of still is to attach it to the idea of making illicit booze in the Deep South of the United States.
So far so good. But I started noticing by the early 90s that people I had not seen for a while would start conversations with, “Alex are you still…” I knew what they were driving at. They did not consider photography a relevant (much as it in fact is not relevant now) profession and they wanted to know if I had moved to a better and more established mode for making money. I particularly got miffed when the questioners were lawyers, I usually responded, “Are you still lawyering?”
Another awful use of still is in connection with the proliferation of female selfies in facebook (note that the style of the logo means it should be in lower case). Because I have few acquaintances under 40, most of these selfies are of women over 40. Many of the pictures are terrible phone selfies or dark with light backgrounds, or in a merciless flash situation at a restaurant or party. Friends will comment, “You are still beautiful.” Since I don’t rant or complain on facebook I do not put stuff like, “Wow, what an active and incisive brain!”
The other side of the coin is that nobody comments on man selfies, “You are still handsome.”
If I were a woman over 40 and someone wrote about my perceived beauty with still, I would immediately go to the Hudson’s Bay and purchase a large jar of Oil of Olay.
And yes I am still taking photographs. On a sadder note I remember the many times my mother told me as a young boy, "Your sister, Vicky had red hair. She was still-born."