Monday, October 5, 2009

Say Cheese

On Friday after trying on some pretty on the Mag Mile, I took the #3 south to head back to school for faculty meetings. I sat beside a white woman in a heavy, leopard print sweater coat and large sunglasses, who was chatting with two older black woman across the aisle about Chicago getting the brush-off for 2016. She asked one woman, who could have been my father's mother, if she could take her picture. This woman was also wearing animal print, a leopard scarf with her tan raincoat, and then she explained who she was and how she worked in fashion. She asked the scarf-wearer for a photo because she keeps a fashion blog and "is absolutely mad about wearing animal prints." Turns out she'd been the original fashion editor for Chicago Social, a magazine that I'd never be able to afford if it weren't free. It features information about and for how the other half of Chicago lives, not those of us who actually have big shoulders, but whose mod leather jackets give the impression of big shoulders.

It was odd to watch her take photos of this black woman on the bus. I found myself wondering, is there something, anything, untoward, objectifying in this? I don't know anything about fashion, and if you know me, you know this about me. So maybe it's totally legitimate to take pictures of strangers on public transportation. I recently discovered this fashion blog, some famous guy, who shoots pictures of strangers on the streets of Manhattan wearing things I could never pull off and looking very cool. So maybe there's something to this idea of just pointing your digital Fuji at strangers, asking from behind the viewfinder and then snapping away.

But the whole thing was odd. Three retirees chatting about Chicago, and how several of them don't live here anymore, and then this woman pulls out a camera and takes a picture of one. I don't really know what I think about it, it's hard to say. I don't know what the subject was thinking, but as this woman snapped several photos, the black woman turned to to a stranger she'd been chatting with, another black woman of a similar age and station in life, and they exchanged a look.

Can you belive this white lady? the first look said.
I know, honey, you know how they are, the second look said.
This is the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me on a bus.
Don't worry, she won't hurt you, just let her have her little fun.
The woman being photographed looked at me, and my eyes said, I know, auntie, I know.

After the fashonista had satisfied herself, she turned to me, and promptly asked if she could take a shot of my hands. I was wearing a beloved pair of fingerless gloves, knitted purple and decorated with purple fringe (thank you, Painter), and she thought they were "absolutely adorable." So I let her photograph my hands.

I hid one finger under the hand of the other, because it had a big ugly band-aid on it.

I felt a little bit objectified, but I've looked at her blog, and neither my hands, nor the leopard scarf have appeared. So maybe I'm just objectified in my own head, but not enough to be put on someone else's blog. It is however, a good deal more fashionable than my own blog, and maybe I could stand to learn a few things from the photos she snaps of people on the street. Oh, for a personal style not dictated by cheap clothes and midwestern weather...


Rachel said...


Would appearing on the blog make you feel more or less objectified?

p.s. Keep writing!

Jessica Young said...

thanks. finding time to get here seems harder and harder to do these days... thanks.

Rachel said...

I understand. You are marvelous.