There’s no fool like an old one

If all goes according to Hoyle, there’s a new head-and-shoulders shot with this month’s column. I say “head-and-shoulders”, but in the newspaper business, we called it a “head shot”, an abbreviation that sounds as if reporter-photographers were snipers, when in reality most newshounds wrote far, far tougher than they ever lived.

Of course the 2019 name for it is gentler, almost silly-sounding: a selfie. And, full confession (this being the season of Lent), I did shoot it as a selfie, using my arms in lieu of a selfie stick and my Nikon Coolpix L820 camera instead of my smartphone. Back in the dark ages of single-lens reflex cameras and film, Nikon was THE camera for true photojournalists; Nikon had the best glass, reporters always said. My Nikon Coolpix L820, purchased about four years on sale for under $150, is the closest I’ve ever come to the best glass. It is good, but the camera has only a wide-angle lens. It makes my nose look even bigger than in real life.

But I’m a male senior. I shouldn’t care about how I look. Right?

The evidence suggests otherwise. I shot 67 pictures of myself before I saw six that might work. Sure, some were blurry and in a few, one shoulder looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame from the jacket-bunching that went with extended arms. In others, sprigs of artificial flowers appeared to be growing out of the side of my head (see wide-angle lens above).

I didn’t resort to Photoshop, but I was aware from my years in community newspapers that softer lighting can obscure facial lines. As I clicked away, I took advantage of that knowledge. In this, I was guilty of a sin people have committed since cave people painted themselves on walls. We all like to look good. Social media and three years of Trudeau selfies are merely amplifying an ongoing vanity project.

That being said, those 67 attempts made me a little uneasy, possibly because I was sensing something not entirely of the highest moral realm. Ah, pride, the king of the seven deadly sins. Here’s Thomas à Kempis writing in The Imitation of Christ: “Nothing is so beneficial as a true knowledge of ourselves, which produces a wholesome self-contempt.”

Obviously old Thomas wasn’t writing to a Facebook audience. I’m reasonably certain that if the words “wholesome” and “self-contempt” ever appeared together in a Facebook post, my friends would offer me frowny faces and refuse to flatter me with shares.

Or ostracize me to social media hell by unfriending me. God forbid!