Camera-shy and on camera

I’ve always been camera-shy. It was impressed upon me years ago, when I was a teenager, that I didn’t have the type of features that were considered attractive — or, at the very least, that if I did, they didn’t show up in photos.

Now that I look at some of the photos of me in my 20s, it occurs to me that things really weren’t as bad as I thought at the time. But it was what I did think at the time, and that is what has kept me a writer who only presented herself for photos or videos with some trepidation.

graduate_barbara
Caught off-guard at age 21 wearing my college graduation head-gear.

A few days ago, I actually was able to overcome that shyness somewhat to do a “journalist covers new technology video” for IDG, the company I currently work for. It was quite an experience — both for me and for the poor people who worked with me: the director, a young woman with infinite patience, and the photographer, a young man with equal patience (although he didn’t say much, and I have no idea what he was thinking).

They wanted me to talk to the camera, explain why I thought the product was important. I thought that, at worst, I’d be interviewing the vendor, and wouldn’t have to utter more than a sentence or two at a time. (“And what usership is the focus of your product? Do you think you can compete against, say, Google? )

Instead, I was asked to give my “expert opinion” on why this was an important product, a task that I failed at utterly. I am used to being able to play with a product and then write it up, going back to check an impression or do a bit of research. Asked to describe or pontificate on a product, and I get completely tongue-tied; my entire store of vocabulary dries up.

I was constantly apologizing; for stumbling over words, for saying things like “today” and “currently” (we weren’t supposed to date the video); for forgetting what the product was supposed to be about (and for becoming so flustered I forgot the name of the product itself). “Smile!” the director would constantly remind me. “Be more lively!” Finally, I said, “I’m from Brooklyn — we don’t smile there!” (Obviously not true, but it was all I could think of saying at the time.)

So here’s the result: More of a complement to the talents of the director, the photographer and the editor than to me. I still don’t like the way I look on camera — and I think the way I pronounced my “s” sounds a bit off.

But still, I think it’s rather neat, and thought I’d show it off.

My moment of media glory.
My moment of media glory.
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