Thursday, August 9, 2012

Say cheese!

I don’t know about you, but when I’m performing and I see someone with a big fancy-ass camera taking photos, I become very aware of everything.  I’ve seen too many pictures – of myself and others – where kata was mediocre, where presence was lapsing, when all it would have taken was a tiny bit more *something* to have made that picture look good.

For a while, when watching videos or seeing pictures, I would come across something with me in it that I would cringe at.  Why wasn’t I smiling?  Why were my legs in that position?  What the hell am I doing?

By the time I saw someone with a camera, who knew how many pictures had been taken?  What’s more, there’s hardly ever a performance when there’s not a dozen people holding up smartphones or cameras nowadays, which goes up tenfold for some of the largest gigs!  After a number of years, I got tired of looking through pictures of gigs and having regrets, so I decided to take a much more active approach. 

Now, I have to assume there’s people taking pictures and video of our performances.  They may or may not be taking them of me, and I may not ever see them, but I have to assume that they are and I will.  In doing that, I make myself much more aware of what product I’m putting out there

It’s a combination of ego, performance, and worry that makes me try to “look better” when the camera is out (even if it’s not):
  • Ego makes me want to show the lens how good I can be.  "I will show it how good I am, from my perfect extension to my dazzling presence."  Something like that, anyways.
  • Performance is the art of putting on a good show.  I need to make sure I am embodying my style correctly and putting out as much energy as possible.
  • Worry is about having myself captured doing something that looks crappy.  A stupid expression or a dead face is something I loathe seeing.  Being in a different pose from others around me might not look like much in real time, but in a picture it looks like I’m sloppy.
Mind you, when I perform, I am really not playing to the camera.  That’s a path that leads to being disingenuous, where it’s all about style instead of substance.  No, I’m simply taking what I’ve been taught and trying to exemplify it.  But in order to do that, I have to be aware of what the right way is (my style) and then how to make my execution of it better.

Some people might freak out if they start thinking about doing well during a song and THEN having to think about making it look great every given moment possible just in case someone captures part of it.  Much like gaining confidence, this is something that takes time.  I do sometimes have to actively think, “better not let that arm droop” or “does your body look too relaxed right now?”, but it’s not a constant stream of inner dialogue.  It’s more like a few reminders here and there to check myself.  And then it becomes part of your playing, just like kiai or smiling (if you smile, that is…)

This is a mindset that ultimately makes you a better performer regardless of who's watching or taping or taking pictures.  If you are aware and pushing and doing better, no matter of the why, then it's for the better.  If you're doing it to show off, or because you are LOOKING for a camera to perform to, then you're coming from a shallow place.

To put it simply?  Imagine your family is in the audience with cameras at the ready, happy to show all their friends what you look like.  That's my blog post in a nutshell, ha!

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