September 26, 2010

Titillate the Tedium

Even in the most exciting jobs (Cosmonaut, Test Pilot, Dragon Wrangler), there are moments of unadulterated drudgery. We all do them: mow the lawn, input payroll, return emails, stock shelves, vacuum carpets; each one of us has a certain job requirement that we feel could be accomplished, with better overall company efficiency, by a trained monkey or shiny new robots. This week, we are going to capture the greyest of these moments and give them a little colour.

Nobody likes collating.
Photo by Dani Lurie under Creative Commons License
You’ll need a camera with a timer. Film is fine (and kudos for maintaining your photographic integrity), but digital cameras are now ubiquitous, and will make the playing/editing process much simpler.

Before you begin your mindless task, set up your camera on a stable platform. A table, a desk, or a truck bed will do. Face the camera toward where you will be working. Find the longest self-timer setting on your camera, set it, and press the shutter release button. Now, dutifully return to work.

As you’re working, don’t count seconds, and don’t pose. Forget about the camera for a while. Allow the camera to capture you at your most diligent, most honest, and most bland. When it occurs to you, reset the timer on the camera and repeat. Do this no more than three times a day; you do have a job to do. When you’re finished with this exercise, put the camera away without looking at the pictures.

At the end of the week, find 30 minutes, upload your photos onto your computer and open them with whatever free photo-manipulation software that your computer has or your camera came with. If you don’t have one, try finding one free online. I have found Seashore for Mac to be quite extensive, and Irfanview for PC to be very user friendly.

If you’ve done this exercise daily, and at the maximum recommended dosage, you should have no more than 15 photos to play with. Choose your favourite 3 out of the batch, and stash the rest. We will play with some of the various photo-manipulative tools your software has to offer, and edit/enhance/enliven your chosen 3.

Most programs will have similar tools, and the ability to adjust colour is probably the most prevalent. Try turning your photos black-and-white. Sepia. Adjust the saturation, the hue, and the contrast. Fine-tune the colours to bring out the essence, the hidden life, within that uninspired moment of your day. If you like what you see, save it!

From left: original photo; black & white; adjusted saturation and brightness.
Some photo programs come with the ability to add various textures, or artistic effects, to your photograph. If you are fortunate enough to own one, now is the perfect time to use it. Brush up your photo with a painted effect. Give it a feel of being hand-drawn, airbrushed, or set in stained glass. Play with these effects for a while. If you don’t like the result, you can always hit “undo.”

From left: stained-glass effect; photocopy effect; sepia filter
If the pictures you took look fantastic as they are, then feel free to keep them as such. Don’t be ashamed of being a naturally terrific photographer. If you were able to brighten them up with the photo software, however, then save them now.

Open up your new photos on the screen, one at a time. Take a deep look at each one. Do you notice anything that you never have while engaged in your work? Take this time to notice yourself, your posture. What was going through your mind at the time? Does it show? Notice the other people, if any, in the photograph. Save them. By which I mean the photos, if they already haven’t been.

This exercise required very little time throughout the week, though at the end you now have 3 fantastic photos of yourself. This is not at all narcissistic; these are photos of a Moment of which you were a part. Take your one most-liked photo, print it out, and try to hang it in the same place that it was taken. Post the other two as your “profile pic” on whichever social networking site you subscribe to. Remember, these Moments do not belong to you; they belong to the world. Give them back. Hopefully, by adding a touch of colour or flair to your photos, you’ve created a Moment through which you can see that within all the monotony, your life at these times truly holds something special that cannot be crushed by numbingly repetitive work.

And of course to be fair, here’s mine:


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