A few years ago, when my Pentax film camera became obsolete, I took my income tax refund over to a nearby Best Buy; I emerged two hours later with a Canon Power Shot, rechargeable batteries, two memory cards, and absolutely no idea what I was doing.
A month later, I enrolled in an Adult Education class and spent the next six weeks climbing the stairs (ever so slowly, one at a time) up into the Digital Age.
Our first week’s homework assignment was to shoot a portrait.
“Capture expression,” our teacher encouraged. “You’re looking for emotion, character!”
My classmates were eager to get shots of spouses and partners, grandchildren, dogs and cats.
Not me. I wanted to do something completely different, something slightly off-the-wall.
The next day, I placed my favorite wind-up toy – a white dog with black spots and a bright red tongue – in a patch of sunlight on my dining room table and took a couple of close-ups.
When I downloaded the shot to my computer and displayed it on my screen, I was amazed: this cheerful little fellow (with his bone tucked under his chin) made me grin. The shadows fell across his face, his brown eyes were fixed on mine.
Talk about character: he nearly wagged!
I tried the bumblebee next: he appeared to be busy, industrious and, perhaps, a little overwhelmed. I’m not sure about his orange feet (is it supposed to be pollen?), but everything else seems to fit. His wings whir and his antennae actually twitch forward and back when he’s powered up!
It’s the eyes, though, that carry this little guy. Again, expression.
The absolute best, though, is The Little Woman atop my cheese grater (given to me one Christmas by my friend Pam). She lives in my kitchen (not Pam, but the grater) and every time I pass her by, her facial expression reminds me of one of those late-1950s TV sitcom women – June Cleaver, say, or Harriet Nelson – looking askance at her slightly misbehaving sons and/or condescending husband!
If there’s a word for this – the depth and spread of emotion and character found in manufactured items – I don’t know it.
If you can come up with one, please send it along.