Jenni’s Belle Cake, by Jenni’s beau (?)
“You know those people who take so many pictures that it’s annoying, but then later you’re really glad they did?” said my friend Matt, trawling Facebook to find photos for a class project.
“Yes!” I said instantly, thinking of my father. He recently got a phone with a fancy camera, and we’re getting used to looking into a dull lens instead of his eyes. No slight up-twitch of the lips has gone uncatalogued.
Little did I know, but I would soon encounter the artistic products of another compulsive paparazzo. My mom discovered a stack of photos in the bottom of the Twister box during family game time tonight. We apparently inherited it from a mysterious lady named Jenni, who not only loves the “stockin’ feet game” but also Disney princesses. Go figure.
I’ve been waiting for interesting anonymous photos to float into my life since I had that adventure with artist Sarah Refvem, who paints from close-ups of vintage photos. The first one she discovered was hidden in a box at a friend’s house and shows a group of kids at a swim meet. Inspecting the faces in the photo closely, she noticed that a group photo, which is usually thought of as “just a form of documentation” could actually tell dozens of stories.
“Some people are doing what they’re told, but everyone’s having their own individual experience,” Sarah said. She stole the photo, and later blew it up so that she could see the faces more clearly. Some of the kids were looking self conscious as they posed in their swimsuits, while others seemed confident and outgoing. Some were focused while others distracted each other.
It was a breakthrough moment for Sarah. “I realized that you can use other people to talk about what you’re feeling,” she said.
After weeks of waiting, my Refvem moment had finally arrived. Here’s a bespectacled gent, slightly embarrassed but very intent on his goofy task. There’s the birthday girl, overwhelmed as only a Belle fangirl could be by her ballroom cake, complete with a chandelier. The photography is documentary-style, recording each and every moment in the party’s proceedings. You could almost splice it together to create a filmstrip.
You have to admit, it’s a pretty sweet cake. But is it sweet enough to merit a birthday kiss?
…And she went for the hug. Aw, shucks. Perhaps there’s some hidden tension in this situation? Why is the girl behind them folding her arms and averting her gaze?
We’ll never know the real story, but that’s not the point. As Sarah might say, the stories we create are really about us.