Sunday, March 7, 2010

167 days to Bar Mitzvah: photo-sensitive

Shortly after we learned that we had a Jawa pending, I made a decision I regret, though not as much as you'd think. I decided that we would not buy a video camera. Our lives would be recorded through simple still photos. No one would have to endure an endless session watching recorded tape of a motionless -- yet no less amazing -- baby.

Sandra Bullock disagreed. She wanted a video camera, but for reasons I still can't explain, for this one decision she deferred to me. No camera.

Our only experience with moving images came at our wedding. We hired a guy employed by a friend, who put together an excellent, professional video that we watched twice, then put in a box with all of our wedding photos. I think we watched it again at our tenth anniversary. I didn't like watching it. I looked wooden.

A couple of years ago, the Jawa bought his own video camera. With it he's made some pretty cool shorts. He's old enough (or perhaps young enough) to use it for artistic purposes, not to make living recordings of everyday life. That's what photos are for.

Which brings up one of the hidden costs associated with Bar Mitzvahs: the video. Not to be outdone, the photos usually run a couple of grand as well. Call me a philistine, but I can't help thinking that these are two prime opportunities to cut costs. How hard can it be to take photos at a Bar Mitzvah?

What we don't want is a rerun of our wedding. On someone's recommendation, I can't remember who, we hired this very eccentric photographer who had a thin ponytail, a tired-looking wife and absolutely no patience for living subjects. In the half-hour he kept us captive after our ceremony while he arranged us and took pictures, he managed to earn the ire of both my bride and my mother; a neat trick, indeed.

Almost eighteen years later, everyone who was at our wedding still remembers the photographer. And not in a good way.

I'll give him credit, though. When the pictures came out, they were great. We did black-and-white because I was pretending that our wedding took place in 1964. In eighteen years, we've almost forgotten what a challenge that photoragpher was. His quirks have faded at least to the point where they are merely part of an amusing story about our wedding day.

For the Bar Mitzvah, though, the last thing we want is to have to grind the day to a halt and stand around while some perfectionist artiste sets up formal shots of the family. Now that I think of it, that was the last thing we wanted to do on our wedding day, too.

And to pay a premium for that privelege, well, that's just not going to happen. Not if I have anything to say about it. And other than telling it to the whole world here in this blog, I probably don't have anything to say about it. But lets pretend I do.

I can't see why we can't find someone -- an amateur, an enthusiast, a student -- to take pictures at our Bar Mitzvah for less than $2,000. What are we talking about here? We like candid photos better than posed, formal ones. Some of the best pictures from our wedding were taken by friends, including some truly bizarre ones taken by my truly unique friend Cameron, who was in my fraternity at Santa Clara and now lives about a mile away, though we hardly ever see him.

Right now, we're trying to talk a friend of S. Bullock into doing it, a guy who worked with her at Genentech and is now trying to set himself up as a pro photog. Sounds perfect. We can put this guy up at the hotel for two nights, feed him topflight food and give him a little extra for the effort and still come out way ahead. And I'll bet no one looks at our pictures and goes, "Wow, they really cut corners on the pictures, didn't they."

Look, I'm not saying I don't value photos. I'm sure if the Hayward Fault blew open and San Francisco caught fire, I'd be right there digging through the rubble looking for our photo albums. I get that. All I'm saying is that I think we can get good shots without shelling out big bucks. And that our only experience with a "professional" left us lukewarm toward that particular type of artisan.

As for the video, I'm even less inclined to want to throw down major jack for a videographer, because I think we'll watch it once and then sentence it to the dustbin. Maybe the Jawa will watch it a few times. Not enough to justify a major investment. If the add-ons are stuff like music and cool fades, we can do without. Heck, we could just have someone walk around with a camera, then give us the footage and have the Jawa himself shape it into something coherent.

Why am I so adamant? Probably because I was over visiting the Hammer yesterday and listening as she tallied up their Bar Mitzvah costs. She warned me that there are all kinds of little things that you think will cost less than they actually do. Our budget is already about $5,000 higher than I'd hoped. If there's any chance that we can lower it (and thus, potentially avoid a months-long period of poverty and financial recovery in the wake of this event) invisibly, without it being too obvious to our guests, well, I'm going to grab onto that faux brass ring and run with it until the merry-go-round stops.

I'll agree that we should have something. We were just talking yesterday about how after all this build-up, August 21 is going to come and go in a flash. Before we know it, it'll be over. Just like our wedding, which I can only remember in flashes now: there was a ceremony, I screwed up something about the ring and everyone laughed. Then we stood in a hallway shaking hands with people. After that, we walked around a big room while music played -- including the much-loathed "What I Like About You," which I had specfically requested not be played during an earlier meeting with our DJ -- and I was introduced to a bunch of people I haven't seen since. Then we got on Scott Morrell's motorcycle and drove away.

What I can say is that only because of our video do I know that I ate something at our wedding. And that I once had a head full of glorious, black curls. So yes, some kind of record should be kept of this day. I have a couple of albums from my Bar Mitzvah, which I'm pretty sure were compiled of photos taken by family members, not pros.

Just five us someone unobtrusive, not weird, not with a thin ponytail, and have them surreptitiously take pictures of people. Nothing huge. We can get that done for less than $2,000, can't we?


Butter Goats said...

Shoot. I'll have the Girl Child go nuts with the Flip and call it good.

zingal said...

You know Jordan has a few under his belt now. Not bad for $100.00. Plus he can run the montage if you do one. He knows what to highlight and who the players are.