Monday, November 7, 2011

Real vs. Make Believe

I was recently asked to be photographed for the cover of a local women's magazine.  I know right...that tiny statement needs way more explanation...but I'll get to that another day.

They wanted me to get some girlfriends together for a photo shoot.  There was an article about real women and real places and real struggles.  And they needed a picture.  Of real women.  Real friends.

So we gathered, after real stress about outfits and match or not to match?  We smiled and really laughed...just be natural, say something funny, promise you won't get my butt in this shot, don't knock over that tree.  We gave the photographer what she needed and headed home for a glass of real champagne...Congrats, you were awesome!  You're so funny.  That wasn't so bad.  So true, so true.  

And I started thinking about that finished cover shot.  Those real friends.  Those real women.  And what we were making you believe in that picture.

You know for certain that an image of a giraffe with blue spots and a top hat is a charming work of make believe.  The readers of this local magazine are expecting real life on the cover next month.  Who shall we tell them was photographed that day?  That skinny girl in the middle of the holiday scene wearing the designer vest and the knowing smile...she is exactly as real as the be-speckled giraffe.  

We are all hiding something.  Leaving out just enough that our message is still true.  Creating a certain type of make believe to be consumed by the public.  How we look can create a very confusing set of facts.  How would you know what I'm hiding unless I told you?  The short wouldn't.  But most of the time you don't really want to know.  I can't go around displaying the whole reality all of the time.  It's messy.  It's ugly.  It's complicated.  It doesn't need to be all out there all of the time.  And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that I only show you a tiny slice of the big picture.

So the question is...If I don't give you the real story, if I leave things that make believe?  If the unglamorous stuff gets crafted right out of the picture does that make it imaginary?  The well crafted reality that is my personal style and my writing it make believe?

I honestly don't know.  But it's got me thinking, and that's a good thing.  Thinking about what my outside says about my inside and what my writing says about my living.

Thinking about the real people in my life and what I'm trying to make them believe.

...continued here.


  1. i liked that a whole lot. i know how much i leave out of my writing here on the typepadlike thing, and how little I share with the community in which i live right now. hm.

  2. Good food for thought. It's hard to balance our cultural psychology of "be real" with old fashioned manners of not dumping your dirty laundry on everyone. Oftentimes rudeness is excused away as "I'm just being honest here".
    It's hard to figure it out for yourself never mind trying to teach your children. When you figure it out, write a self-help parenting book for all of us.

  3. A lovely and provocative piece of writing, but I'm not sure I would call it "real vs. make-believe" but more the Problem of Depiction that every artist (and writer and creative, thoughtful person) faces. The world is everything, and representing even a tiny part of that world involves a selection process. You can't give every detail of every moment of even a small part of your day, so you go for broad strokes, you pick a few examples that will stand for the whole, and depending on your mood you may pick the happy or the sad details, the one big moment of joy or the several small pieces of doubt and despair to represent the whole day, or a life, a time and place. It's what we do, and even your selection reveals more than you think because it tells us how you see the world, which is just as interesting, if not more so, than what that world really is. I know, oh yes I know what you mean about pictures of thin, laughing gals being a fake or make-believe depiction of the 'real' world, but if you and I both know, then trust me, lots of other people know the truth too, and the truth is, you are all much more than any picture, and the picture doesn't entirely lie either, it just doesn't say everything. Every picture tells a story, just not the whole story. You are happier and thinner than you are at other times, and you are friends a lot of the time too. And yes, there's much more besides that. And that is part of the glory and frustration and challenge of the creative process; the Problem of Depiction, whether it is a photograph or a story or a heartfelt confession or a painting -- it is about capturing the truth, the essence, the 'reality'. And that is easier said than done. Not just in what we say or show as what we choose not to say and not reveal. Which is part of the picture we create as well: the shadows, the rough spots, the blank spaces, the words left unsaid.

  4. I really do think that last one is just an excellent comment, nancy. good on you for having an articulate reader... throwing wisdom down in a comment section. good.