The myth of beauty

“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” -  Sophia Loren

Have you ever seen celebrities or supermodels on the cover of a slick magazine? Have you ever asked yourself, “I wonder how they stay so thin?” Or “how do they keep their skin so flawless?” The answer is: they don’t.

In photojournalism, manipulation of the content of photos is strictly taboo. We can do some cropping, adjust contrast and color and lighten or darken portions of the picture (called “dodging” and “burning”), but that’s the extent of it. Credibility is he mainstay of the news business and readers need to know they can trust that the pictures they see in the paper (and online) are of real events as they really happen and of real people as they really are. Any kind of falsification of a photo is cause for a severe reprimand of the perpetrator up to and including dismissal.

Fashion/glamor photography adheres to a entirely different standard. Manipulation is not only tolerated, it seems to be accepted as the norm. Most fashion/glamor/advertsing photography focuses on presenting beauty as an ideal. It’s an ideal that even the models who pose for those photos, as beautiful as they are, cannot live up to. First they are made-up and coifed to within an inch of their lives. Then, after the photos are taken (by experts in flawless lighting), computer manipulation is used to further enhance the models’ looks beyond recognition. Before the digital age, this was confined to the skill of an artist wielding an airbrush. But today, the sky’s the limit.

My daughter is now a teenager in middle school. Back in elementary school, school uniforms were required. Now, with some restrictions, it’s free dress, as they say. My wife and I have tried to do our best to promote our daughter’s sense of self, for her to be comfortable with who she is and how she looks. But it’s been a constant campaign to reinforce reality over the fantasy of images of impossibly thin and flawless women wearing the latest fashions on television and in magazines and even online.” Our daughter loves to read and we purchased a subscription to Teen Vogue magazine for the articles of her favorite celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. There were other articles that paid lip service to body image and anorexia, along side advertisements with photos of of impossibly thin models with equally impossibly flawless skin. We’re reconsidering renewing the subscription.

A light in the darkness is Dove with its Real Beauty campaign. It promotes the beauty of real people and tries to dispel the myth of the ideal standard. They’ve produced a video (below) that shows just what goes into producing a fashion photo, that the beauty found in magazines is unattainable in reality. It’s something we’ve shown to our daughter. It’s something that every girl and young woman should see.

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To me a perfect picture isn’t one that just capture’s a person’s outer beauty. As a photojournalist I want to reveal some truth about a person’s character. Sometimes the wrinkliest, blemished faces may make some of the most beautiful, emotionally truthful photos.

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I Digress: Creepy crawler

I’m starting feature that I call “I Digress.” I’ll post little tidbits that I find interesting, odd, funny or just downright weird. They’ll be related to photography, cameras or newspapers in some way. Here’s the first. Enjoy!

“The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play Pinochle on your snout…” The Hearse Song -- a traditional folk song

Researchers at the Tohoku University Graduate School in Japan have developed a rather creepy device that can save lives that uses vibrations and cilia-like bristles to move a fiber-optic camera in a snake-like fashion. It’s designed to crawl through small openings to help rescue people trapped under earthquake rubble, for example.  I’m sure it’s a helpful invention that will save many lives, but seeing this video of the device in action just gives me the creeps.

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Turning point

In the 200 individual medley the swimmers perform for different strokes, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle, on each lap of the pool. The turns during the first two strokes, involve open turns. The swimmer touches the wall with their hands, reverse direction and then pushes off with their feet.

Washington State University’s Talor Whitaker is urged on by her teammates as she makes a turn in her 200 individual medley heat at the Pacific Invitational swim meet at UOP’s Kjeldsen Pool in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

Backstroke and freestyle swimmers tend to use flip turns. They somersault near the wall and then push off with their feet, twisting back to their original position as they swim away. The flip turns are quicker but create more of a splash.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

I shot Pacific Invitational Swim Meet at the University of the Pacific’s Kjeldsen Pool in Stockton on Oct. 18. After getting several shots with a telephoto lens, I decided to get closer with a wider lens. I wanted to get a shot of the swimmers at they made their turns. Shooting the butterfly and breaststrokes was no problem, but after the swimmers made turns in the backstroke and freestyle, my pants looked like I had poor bladder control. Fortunately, it’s been a relatively warm fall, so my trousers dried fairly quickly. If you want to get close, you have to be willing to pay the price.

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Spare no expense

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm  @ 50mm. Exposure: 1/8th sec. @ f/9 with flash. ISO: 125)

Record Graphic artist Rick Hudock was drafted into carving volunteered to carve the pumpkins for the Halloween photo illustration. We bought him the kind of carving tools that one can find at any supermarket.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm  @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/8th sec. @ f/8 with flash. ISO: 125)

Rick had to carve two pumpkins (one for the still pictures, the other for an online video), so we got him two sets of tools, and it was a good thing that we did. The tools, costing $3.99, were rather flimsy. Each kit had two metal saw-like blades attached to plastic handles, a plastic scooper and couple other plastic pieces that I wasn’t sure what they were for.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm  @ 50mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/16 with flash. ISO: 205)

Rick used tools for both kits. The blades flexed and bent with every cut. One even broke off from its handle. Rick eventually, resorted to using his own pocket knife to finish off the job. It was a classic example of you get what you pay for.

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Smoke and fog

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm  @ 19mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/11 w/ flash. ISO: 200)

I recently gave in to my inner geekness and bought a fog/smoke machine. Last year, I resisted buying one at Costco, after all I’d probably use it just once, maybe twice a year. A few weeks ago I saw one at a Raley’s supermaket. Weakness overcame me and I shelled out $22 (plus tax) for it. I justified it to myself by saying that the kids would love it for Halloween.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm  @ 50mm. Exposure: 1/8th sec. @ f/9 w/ flash. ISO: 125)

Well, even before All Hallows Eve, I found a use for it. I had a studio assignment to shoot a pumpkin carving photo. I had to get some straight forward step-by-step shots of the process of turning a pumpkin into a Jack-o-lantern, but I wanted get a spookier shot of the finished product. My inaugural use of the fog machine was to add a little atmosphere (pardon the pun) to the picture. It took a little trial and error to get the right amount of fog, but I finally got just the right wispiness I wanted. See, you never know when you might need a fog machine.

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Spoiling for a fight

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

At the Stockton Thunder’s season opener against the Fresno Falcons, aggressive play was the order of the night. There were three fights in the first period alone, all within about a minute of each other (much to the crowd’s delight).

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

At one point there were eight players taken out of the game on penalties, three for the Falcons and five for the Thunder. The Thunder penalty box was so full, there weren’t enough seats for all of them to sit at the same time.

Stockton Thunder’s Garet Hunt fights with Fresno Falcons’ Spencer Carbery during an ECHL hockey game in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

I know hockey is a brutal sport and the fans love a good hockey fight, but if Thunder continue their combative ways, they’ll have no one left to play the game.

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Fire and ice

“Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.” -Robert Frost

Stockton Thunder’s Toby LaFrance prepares to enter the Stockton Arena at the start of a ECHL hockey game against the Fresno Falcons in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

Until this season, the player introductions at the Stockton Thunder hockey games have changed very little. The lights in the Stockton Arena would darken, a smoke machine would spray a veil of fog over the ice, a spotlight would shine on the player’s box entrance and team members would skate out one by one as an announcer’s voice boomed over the P.A. system.

This year things are a little different. At the beginning of the first game last Saturday, players lined up at the west entrance to the ice. The lights in the arena dimmed, but this time there was no smoke machine. The announcer heralded the players. As they each skated ou,t a large box placed on the ice spouted a great plume of fire into the air. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz’s blazing throne/altar (“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”).

It’s more spectacular than the fog to be sure, they just have to be careful not to melt the ice.

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Close call

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 70mm. Exposure: 1/400th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)

During the Midnight Mania’s slam dunk contest, Pacific mens basketball player Terrell Smith narrowly averted disaster. As part of one dunk, his teammates Tony Cates (6′-6″) and Taylor Shipley (5′-10″) stood in front of the basket. The 6′-4″ Smith ran towards them and tried to leap over them for a spectacular dunk attempt. But he didn’t quite get enough altitude and tumbled over the other players. He managed to grab ahold of Cates’ jersey to slow his fall a bit, but still crashed to the floor. There was an audible “Oooo” from the audience in a that’s-gotta-hurt kind of way. Smith quickly popped up as if to say “Don’t worry, I’m OK”. He was lucky because his season could have ended before it even began.

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‘Round midnght

“…Let our hearts take wings’
’round midnight, midnight
Let the angels sing,
for your returning…” – ‘Round Midnight – Thelonious Monk

Last Friday night was the University of the Pacific’s Midnight Mania, the annual kick off event for Tigers basketball (“midnight” is a misnomer because the event starts at 10:00 p.m. and goes until around 11:30). With a boisterous fanfare, both the men’s and women’s teams were introduced in front of several hundred screaming fans at the university’s Spanos Center gymnasium. The pep band played rousing fight songs, team mascot Powercat pranced and the Pacific dance team performed high-kicks to rev up the crowd. There was a three-point contest, a fast-break drill, a scrimmage and finally a slam-dunk contest.

University of the Pacific men’s basketball player Anthony Brown dances with the UOP Dancer Lauren Ragan at the Midnight Mania basketball kickoff event at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)

The highlight was during the second routine of the Pacific dancers. To the surprise and delight of the crowd, the men’s squad joined the dancers on the court and broke into Michael’s Jackson’s famous “Thriller” dance steps. How well the Pacific men’s basketball team does in the coming season is yet to be seen, but they showed that they have all the right moves.

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Sister two sister

“Sisters, sisters,
There were never such devoted sisters,
Never had to have a chaperone,
No sir, I’m here to keep my eye on her…” Sisters, sisters – Irving Berlin

(Left) Tokay’s Nicole Buzo spikes the ball past Edison’s Britney Pascual and Keilani Kitagawa and her sister Heather Buzo celebrates a point during a volleyball match at Tokay High in Lodi. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lenses {L-R}:Nikkor 300mm/Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)

I shot Edison at Tokay volleyball in Lodi last week and there were not one, but two sets of sisters playing in the match. Heather and Nicole Buzo a senior and a sophomore respectively, played for the Tokay Tigers while Brianna and Elesse Lacy, a senior and a freshman, were on the Edison Vikings squad.

(Left) Edison’s Brianna Lacy digs for the ball, while her sister Elesse Lacy blocks a shot by Tokay’s Nicole Buzo during a volleyball match at Tokay High in Lodi. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lenses {L-R}: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 180mm/Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)

For both the Buzos and the Lacys volleyball is a family affair. Pamela Buzo, Heather and Nicole’s mom, is Tokay’s head volleyball coach. Brianna and Elesse’s big sister, Andrya Lacy, also played at Edison and currently is an outside hitter for the Delta College team.

If there was any sibling rivalry, it didn’t show. Both sets of sisters were on the court most of the match and played hard as a part of a team.

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    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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