A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Twitterizing Time
Friday, December 18, 2009

–verb (used with object), -ized, -izing.
1. The act of enabling a person/object to access Twitter.
2. To show a person the wonders of Twitter.

high school kid - hey, are you twitterized yet?
college dude - Dude, I'm totally going to twitterize Shelly from Calculus tonight.
Business person - Hey, are you twitterized yet?

Now that I no longer have that magical gray wall of my studio as a background I must adapt and content myself with taking pictures of Lauren and Rebecca at our home. I have found a few sweet spots inside when it is raining outside and much too cold to take portraits in the garden. One of the sweetest is next to the Boston fern in our dining room. There is nice window lighting coming from the front garden but in all the pictures you see here I ignored it and used my trademark 2x3 ft soft box with one Dynalite flash head shooting through it. Usually, my light is at 45 degrees to my camera. I then raise the light and point it down 45 degrees. This light setup was pioneered by Bert Stern for Cosmopolitan and many call it cleavage lighting! The double 45 degree light will most often create an upside-down triangle on the darker side of the face. Coming from one side, the light mimics the window light I so often ignore.

At this point I would like to coin a new word. The new word, twitterize, already exists with another meaning. See above. I am going to "Alice" it to my own purpose. My meaning has all to do with the shortening of everything because of our brief attention spans and our reduced time for leisure.

We were supposed to have more time, and essays 20 years ago planted the pleasant problem of what we were going to do with all that leisure time we would have in our hands once automation came to our rescue. Those essays never predicted the modern smart phone, texting, Twitter, Facebook and wanting to read a magazine like Sports Illustrated in a special format apped (a verb much in use now!) to our smart phone. We had not yet invented the concept of multitasking.

Our world is getting twitterized. This means that most of what we do has to be done in a reduced period of time. This approach, in which even messages in Facebook, are getting to resemble Twitter in that they are becoming more and more compact, has especially affected photography.

The modern DSLR or its poor cousin, the point and shoot digital camera enables photographers to take pictures anywhere under any lighting conditions. When those conditions get grim the little pop-up flash (or the built-in one) takes over. The overall result is a portrait in which the central flash produces no shadows on the face. It flattens that sense of three dimensionality that a light on one side will create. This side light was a light the the Flemish and Dutch painters mastered. This kind of picture, the one taken with that little central flash (photograph for me would be too kind a word so I will settle on picture), when reinforced by a forced or crazy smile, is what people expect and see now.

Some of the newer cameras even have (I kid you not!) a built-in smile sensor so that the camera will take that snap when the smile is at its apotheosis. These modern cameras are really no different from the older professional cameras that had attached motor drives. Film was expensive but we used to say, “Film is the cheapest part of photography so shoot!” But with the advent of digital cameras shooting lots is truly cheap and most attractive. So people shoot lots in less time.

The idea of placing a big camera in front of Rebecca or Lauren and attaching it to a heavy tripod, takes time. The idea of setting up a light and placing inside a soft box, takes time. The idea of measuring the light (once it has been positioned to Bert Stern’s specifications) with a good flashmeter, takes time. Talking to one’s subject and making them look into the lens and respond to one’s instructions, takes time.

Taking four or five pictures, doesn’t take time. But all the time that preceded the pressing of the shutter will result in a few striking (simply because they are not the norm) portraits that fewer photographers are taking now as a memory for how portraits were once taken and lit begins to fade in our age of twitterized time.

And of course I caught on to the Flemish and the Dutch many years ago. My Lauren and Rebecca rarely smile.


Previous Posts
Between Child & Woman

Were We Made For This?

A Photographic Relationship

Seduced By Rosemary - A Hilarious Consequence

Bauman Rare Books & The Old Man And The Sea

My Scary Girls Weren't Scared

Seriously Serious Children

Agave attenuata, Lauren Stewart & Emily

Agave attenuata - Bloedel Conservatory

Urban Avian Navigation

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