"I'm your biggest fan,
I'll follow you until you love me;
Baby, there's no other superstar,
You know that I'll be your
Lady Gaga -
"And the correct definition of dodging is…Miss Pataki?!"
The correct definition of dodging is Miss Pataki? Oh crap, that's me. "Umm…"
Mr. Redmond sighed, for what I expect to be the thirtieth time today. "Did no one study last night?" he asked, clearly tired. Oh yes, Mr. Redmond, someone studied alright.
"Actually," I began sitting up a little more in my seat. "Dodging is a photographic manipulation process, where a specific area of a print is darkened by giving it additional printing exposure."
The teacher beamed. He wasn't very much older than any of us, but fit the role of an instructor pretty well. "Very nice, Helga."
Okay, here we go. Smile at the teacher. Make eye contact with no one. Scribble something on paper. Play with hair. Avoid left side of the classroom. Any compromise concerning any aspect of said plan would make him think I answered that question for him.
Which wouldn't be a complete lie.
I didn't just answer the question for him…I joined this stupid class for him! Why would I actually want to spend my entire summer, in some overheated, oven of a community college classroom, learning how to take black and white photos of birds and trees and other people? The answer is that I would not. I'm not a photographer. I don't want to be a photographer. I don't even know what ISO means!
So, you may be wondering why I'm here, if this is obviously of no advantage to me, right? Wrong. This is of great advantage to me. Alan Redmond is Hillwood's resident artistic mastermind. He's in practically every art gallery in the city, has about a thousand clients in the state, and they've even named the wing of our high school's art department after him. Hillwood's own Ansel Adams, if you will. So when Mr. Redmond said he'd be offering summer long photo classes at the community college, I had to sign up. Why? Because, of the same person sitting four chairs to the left, and one up.
Call me what you will (psycho, crazy, obsessed) but guess what…you don't give up on ice cream! You just don't! What kind of person would I be if I just decided, "Hey! I don't think I love Arnold anymore! I'm just going to throw in the towel and be his friend, or let him go and date whomever he wants!" I'd be Geri Halliwell. That's right, from The Spice Girls. Yeah, she jumped back for their reunion tour and everyone was all honky dorey and whatnot, but she left those girls high and dry. And I couldn't do that to Arnold. I wouldn't. I won't. I never will.
The genius part of the plan was A) signing up first, so that he wouldn't think I was "following" him (although technically I was) and B) being better at it than him. Don't get me wrong, Arnold is great as a photographer. I don't know how much experience he's had prior to this class (I do know that he was friends with Alan Redmond a long time ago, though), and he obviously loves it, so that might be a reason why he's so good. But I literally found Olga's old camera, bought the cheapest film that I could find, and signed up for the class. And, dare I say, I'm a little bit better than him. Okay, so my darkroom skills are pretty much terrible; I come home smelling like developer everyday, and most of my photos are either yellow or purple as opposed to black and white, but in regards to composition and all that jazz, I'm great.
I think he's impressed. At least he should be.
"Okay, next Monday, your projects are due. I'm handing out the guidelines now." He said, distributing white pieces of paper, describing the assignment.
Pair up with another member of the class. Each participant must submit three photos, one of their partner, one of self, and one of both.
Feel free to take advantage of different lighting techniques, depth of field, and shutter speed.
Partners? That means…okay, play it cool. Read the assignment again. Pretend like you don't even see everybody else pairing up, until…oops! No more partners are left. Woe is me…but hark! Someone else without a partner!
I am way too good at this.
And, count to three, turn slowly in chair, genuine shock at his presence near my seat. Good going so far, girl.
"Hi Arnold." I said, cheerfully. Oh wow, I haven't seen him this close-up in quite a while. I'm usually a few feet behind him or a couple of steps ahead, pretending to look at myself in the handheld mirror that I kept with me, but really watching him and generally running into things. Despite the width of his head, the thick, brown rimmed glasses didn't look weird or stupid on him. They only brought more attention (more of my attention, anyway) to his green eyes. His hair fell lazily over the back of his head, a darker shade of blonde, but still as beautiful as I remembered. Arnold? How about Adonis?! If he weren't standing right here in front of me, I'd have to take a moment to write out another sonnet.
"Do you wanna partner up?" he asked, taking a seat next to me, as if I had no choice. Hello? Did it look like I needed a choice? He picked me!
"Sure." I said, calmly, turning to my own notebook, focusing on my assignment sheet, as opposed to…Arnold. Without warning, I heard a click from my left side, and turned to see Arnold, holding his camera to his face, and pointed at me. Did he just take a picture of me? "Umm, uh…" I began. This was not part of the plan.
"Let's try this…" he said, scooting his chair closer to me, and draping his arm over my shoulder, pulling me closer to him. Before I could properly begin to hyperventilate, he held his camera out in front of us, and asked me to smile. No flash went off, but I heard the shutter close and I assumed that he took a picture of us. US. The word itself is music to my ears.
"I'm sure that's not what Alan meant when he wrote up the assignment, but, oh well." he said, turning his camera off and smiling at me. Me! Crimeny, he was smiling at me and I'm just sitting here like a dead fish! Speak, girl, speak!
"Oh…" Way to go.
"So, I'm not sure what day is good for you, but maybe we can get together on Thursday. Just to brainstorm a little." he suggested. Good suggestion, Arnold. Fantastic idea.
Instead of any of those things, I merely said, "Thursday…oh…" What is wrong with me?! Find your brain, Helga!
Either way, I went home that day with a photo date with Arnold. Sigh.
"So, did you have any ideas?"
Criney, I did it again! We've been in this park for nearly half an hour, and I've drifted off at least four times. He's going to think I have some weird disorder or something. Drift Off Into DreamLand Disorder. DOIDD. Ha, I'm a DOIDD. My name is Helga Pataki and I have DOIDDs…
Make that five times today.
"Yeah?" I said, as if I just finished running a marathon.
"Any ideas?" he asked, patiently. He was so nice, even when I wasn't paying attention and being generally annoying.
"Well, I don't want them to be too posey." Posey? I wracked my brain for another word, but I couldn't find any. "Do you know what I mean?" Of course he didn't, you dolt.
"I feel the same way."
Really? He felt the same way? I was elated. Oh wait, what was he talking about? "Really?" I asked, hoping he'd elaborate. 'Please say getting married in Paris, please, please, please…'
"About not making the photos too…posey." He said, smiling at my diction, or lack thereof. "I think Alan will appreciate a photo if it doesn't look to staged."
Staged! There's a good word! What a big, wonderful brain you have, Arnold…oh my goodness, Mouth, if you actually say that, I will never speak to you again! Shut up brain, shut up! "Great idea!" I said, a bit too enthusiastically.
"Okay, well, I'm going to set up my camera facing that tree over there." Arnold said, pointing to a tree far off. Once he walked away and started setting up a few feet from me, I started assembling my own camera, nervously thinking of what I was going to. I've never taken a picture of Arnold when he was aware of it. Most of them were of him walking home, playing some sport, and from far distances. The rare occasions when I was considerably close to him, he still was never aware that I was there, or taking photos of him. I'm kind of a stalker, now that I think about it. I'm not sure what is a scarier: the thought of being Arnold's stalker, or the fact that I'm not bothered by this at all.
Walking over to him cautiously, I snapped a few shots of him looking interestingly at the tree from where he stood. First, he stood with his hands on his hips, looking focused, and then got down on his knees and tilted his head. He must have heard me giggling, because he snapped out of his concentrated look and smiled at me. I will never get tired of Arnold smiling at me.
"Find something funny?" he asked.
"You just look really…alert." I said, sitting next to him on the grass. Wow. That was really easy. Maybe if I could get my brain to shut up for a few hours, I could have a normal conversation with him. Okay, Brain, you are officially shutting up right…now. "So, what were you thinking about?" Ha! I did again! All hail my silent brain!
"Well, I was thinking that the tree would serve as a nice dark point in a photo, but there wouldn't be any true blacks in the shot. That, and grass always seems to look like carpeting in my photos." he said.
"Maybe if you adjust your-" I said, as a raindrop hit me on my face. Why is it that when it starts raining the first place you feel it is on your face? The face isn't that big, when you think about it? Can't the rain aim for your leg or…something bigger? Agh! My brain is talking again! Shut up!
"We have to get this stuff out of the rain!" Arnold said, scrambling for his camera and tripod, not bothering to disassemble it, but grabbing everything at once and making a mad dash for the parking lot. All I had was my camera and camera bag, so, I just scooped up my things and followed him. It wasn't raining too hard, but we both knew that the least bit of rain could make condensation build up in the lens, and it took forever (or a professional) to get the water out.
"Hop in, I'll give you a ride." Arnold said. I hadn't even noticed that we were running toward the familiar, old green car until he opened the door for me. I complied (remembering to keep my mouth and brain shut), watching Arnold round the side of the car.
Oh my word, I'm in Arnold's car! Well, technically, Arnold's grandfather's car. At least his grandparents gave him a car. Albeit, and old car, but a car, nonetheless. Big Bob won't buy me anything. I'm the only eighteen year-old in Hillwood who is still walking around everywhere.
Arnold climbed in next to me, closed his door and started the car. The radio came on, a very static filled jazz station, but I didn't mind. I'm in Arnold's car, with Arnold. This is the stuff of dreams…
"Is that okay?"
Six times today. Stupid Brain.
"Oh…sorry." I said, waiting for him to repeat himself.
Arnold smiled and shook his head. "You're priceless."
Priceless?! Wow, despite the fact that I'm not sure if he meant to compliment me, I'm going to accept it as one anyway. "Thanks?" I asked.
"I was asking if you wanted to finish the project in my house."
I'm being invited to his house? I don't have to sneak in through the basement and hide in a chest of mannequin heads, or fall in through the skylight and hide in the closet or swindle my way inside and attempt to steal back my own property? I can just walk in and…be there?!
"Sure, that sounds fine." I answered casually. Looking over at Arnold, I noticed him sitting still and smiling as he looked out of his window. Only the fingers on his hand were moving, drumming to the tune on the radio,. Broken up by the static that came through much clearer. Holding up my camera, I focused the lens, adjusted the shutter and took the picture. Turning toward me, Arnold smiled wider, and I took a picture of him again, only this time, he looked directly at the lens.
"Since when are you the paparazzi? he asked, pretending to chide me.
"I've always been the paparazzi." I replied, smiling.
I strolled into class, uncommonly early, and placed my books on my desk. I was hoping to get some time in the darkroom to finish developing my prints. I came on Saturday during free lab, but I ended up printing about twelve exposures that had nothing to do with my project. Yes, they were all of Arnold, and they were all really good, but they were for my personal collection. I only needed a few minutes and I'd be able to have something worth turning in for a grade.
Taking my negatives, photo paper nd binder filled mostly with pictures of Arnold (that I developed earlier) down the hall with me, I passed by a few other students from my class, all on their way from the lab. I hoped that the lab assistant didn't decide to pack up early. Glancing at my watch, it was already 5:30, and the lab closed at 6:00. Turning the corner, I found the heavy, wooden door closed, and I immediately started knocking frantically. In no time, an acne covered college freshman opened the door and disparagingly at me.
"What do you want?" he asked, nasally.
I wrinkled my nose and tried to be polite. This sad excuse for an advisor may have been my only ticket to getting this assignment done. "Hi. Is the darkroom closed?"
Drawing a deep breath through his nose, he answered. "Technically, no. But I have something to do tonight, so I'm closing up now."
"But the lab isn't supposed to close for another half an hour!" I said. "I have to finish an assignment!"
"Well, join the club, girlie." he said, beginning to close the door.
Girlie? Did he know who I was? I put my foot in between the door and doorframe, knowing that he wasn't closing it hard enough to hurt. "Look here you walking Proactiv commercial, if you don't let me in right now, I will break every last one of your fingers and make you eat them, got it?"
To say that he paled wouldn't be saying much at all, because amongst all the acne and pimples and redness on his face, he was pretty pale already. But needless, to say, after that he welcomed me into the lab like I was Mary, Queen of Scots. Whoever that is. I politely thanked him, and walked back into the darkroom.
Adjusting to the red light of the darkroom, I made my way to my usual enlarger, and started to set up. My enlarger was just behind the long sink, filled with four large trays. Three held chemicals and the last one, furthest from me had a special faucet head that continually flowed water through it. All the chemicals were out, and I wondered why Pimple Boy was so upset about my being there, since it looked like someone was working anyway. Maybe he thought I'd make a mess and he'd have to clean up all by himself. Pansy.
Placing a negative sleeve in the enlarger, I arranged the canvas under the light and turned on the large machine. A lit image appeared on the white board, and I smiled. It was the one of Arnold when he was in the car on the way to his house, when he didn't see me taking the photo. I realized that I liked his smile, even when it wasn't directed at me. After adjusting the lens and cropping the sides, I turned off the enlarger light and placed the shiny photo paper under the light. My typical time for exposure was seven seconds, so I went with that and exposed the photo. As soon as Arnold's lit image disappeared again, I took the photo paper and turned to drop it in the developer. When I looked up, I saw another person standing on the other side of the sink, staring a the developing tank as well. Jumping backward in surprise (no, I just like jumping backward for no reason…duh), I caught the other person's attention and stood nervously.
"Hey." Arnold said, looking up, as though he knew that I was there the entire time.
"Hi." I said, breathlessly. Definitely not who I expected.
"You okay?" he asked, calmly.
"Yeah, I just…didn't know anyone else was in here." I said. I'm usually not this weird around Arnold, but can you blame me? I feel like there's a huge boulder on my chest, and I don't know why. Well,. I do, but it's complicated.
"What are you developing?" he asked, motioning toward the paper in my hand.
I looked down, and silently scolded my self for holding the paper so long. With any luck there's going to be a huge handprint on it. "Just finishing up the project." I said, stepping forward and dropping it in the tank filled with developing fluid. I watched Arnold's face appear in the liquid and smiled. Good, no handprints. Moving the tank around, I watched the solution move around the plastic tank.
"That's really nice." Arnold said, suddenly standing next to me. What is this kid, a phantom?!
I scoffed, trying to dissolve some of my nervousness. "Of course you would; it's a picture of you, after all."
"Well, aside from that, it's a really good shot. Your shutter speed was perfect, right here." he said, pointing to the area outside of the Packard's window. The scenery was still, but a car that passed by shed a dark, shadow of a figure in one corner of the photo.
"Thanks." I said, using the tongs to pick the photo up, drain it and dip it in the tank of stop bath. I turned back to my enlarger, feeling far to nervous to talk to Arnold right away. Sure, he wasn't aware of what happened at his house on Thursday, but I still was. And it confused me even now, several days later.
Running around downstairs, I looked for a place to hide. Clothes hamper? No, there was the threat of someone's dirty underwear in there. Closet? No, I hid in there, already. My only option was to look upstairs for a room in which to hide. I put the strap of my camera around my neck and climbed the steps.
I was currently deep in a game of Hide and Shoot (Arnold's idea). In an effort to keep our photos from being too "staged", we invented a game, that was the equivalent of "Hide and Seek", only when the other person is found, the "Seeker" takes a picture of them, instead of tagging them, or whatever. I haven't played the real version of this game in years, so forgive my lack of knowledge regarding it. Anyway, Arnold was currently winning; apparently every hiding spot I thought of, he tried several years ago.
Upstairs, I opened a small door and climbed in, remembering the time I opened a similar door and found myself inside of a miniature, hand-operated elevator. Instead, the interior was completely dark, and instead of being narrow and cramped, I found a long hallway, that didn't get wider until I was a few feet in. I continued moving, with no light in sight, until I fell forward through two heavy, black curtains, and into a barely illuminated room. Dusting myself off and standing up, I looked around and realization clicked. The amber light on the ceiling agave it away.
Arnold built himself a darkroom, right here in the boarding house.
Looking around the small quarters, I was amazed at how he must have done it. There was a sink, not as long as the one at school, holding the upside down tanks and jugs of chemicals. On the floor, under the sink, I spotted a black bow labeled "Photo Paper". All of his supplied were in order and organized. In the far corner, farthest from the entrance, I saw a few photos, hanging up to dry. Walking over, I smiled at the portraits and candid photos. One was of his grandmother, asleep in a rocking chair, the most normal I've ever seen the elderly woman. The next was his grandfather and a few boarders, watching some sporting event, looking nervous and tense. He was a better photographer than I thought.
A couple of other photos hung not too far off, and I focused on those, even though there wasn't much light in this corner. When my eyes finally did adjust, I nearly jumped back when I realized what they were.
The first one, hanging on a clothespin was of me, inside the classroom, holding a photo up to the light. I looked a little confused in the photo, and I was feeling equally confused as well. How did he manage to take that? Looking to the others, I felt the same shock hit me again. There were about eight photos hanging up, and they were all of me. In one, I was sitting in my seat, looking bored at the front of the classroom. The funniest part of the photo was that my eyes were crossed, something I do when I'm bored. No one's ever seen it, or caught me doing it, because it usually only lasts for a moment.
There were others, but I was too surprised to critique them. How did Arnold get so many shots of me? They obviously weren't from the same day, since I was wearing something different in all of them. I was usually able to keep a track of him and what he was doing. The fact that I missed it meant that I was slipping. But if he was taking pictures of me without my knowledge, was he slipping too? And if I was taking pictures of someone without their knowledge while they were taking pictures of me without my knowledge, then who was slipping more?
Forgetting about they game, I backed out of the makeshift darkroom and into the narrow corridor. Once in the hallway, I shut the tiny door behind me and walked down the stairs.
"I don't think this counts as finding you." Arnold said, his camera ready.
I looked at him for a moment and blinked about a hundred times. "I have to go home." I said, walking past him. Why was I suddenly so confused? What made the fact that Arnold took pictures of me so…strange? I was doing the same thing, in retrospect, after all.
"What's wrong?" he asked, concerned. He followed me to the door, where I turned and tried to explain.
"I'm sorry, I have…a headache and I think it might be…a tumor." I said. Whoa…did I just reference Arnold Schwarzenegger…while talking to Arnold? Maybe I really do have a tumor.
"Do you need me to give you a ride home?' he asked, setting down his camera. How compassionate. Unfortunately, now wasn't the time for that. Now was the time for…escape.
"No, I'll be fine. See you in class." I said, opening the door quickly and closing it behind me with equal speed. On the way home I questioned how that tables happened to turn on me so quickly.
I watched my three prints move around under the constant flow of water, and thought about telling Arnold the truth. No, not that I've loved him since I as three, you dolt! I meant, the fact that I saw his…secret darkroom with my pictures in it. Though, I could tell him that too…no! One issue at a time, Helga!
Once again, he was standing across from me, and I couldn't tell if he was looking at my photos, or his, as they were both being washed in the cold water of the sink.
"Which one do you like?" I asked him, meeting his eyes for the first time since I stepped into the room with him.
"That one." he said, referring to the one he saw me developing earlier. "Is this all of them?"
Keeping his gaze, I replied, "No." and walked back to my enlarger. Pulling out my notebook, I thought about only showing him the ones I liked. But, in reality, that would have been all of them, so I just held the notebook out to him, and waited for him to accept it. When he did, he took it as no big deal, and opened to a random page. I saw the slight shock register on his face when the photo he turned to was of him. I knew it'd be of him, because…they were all of him. He could have turned to any page in that binder and found his own face looking back at him.
Flipping a few more pages, I looked away, not caring to see what he thought of my pictures of him. Finding eight pictures of yourself is nothing; showing someone dozens of pictures of them might be a little weird.
"When did you take these?" he asked, grinning at me.
"I don't know. Different days, since the class started." I said quietly. Where's my big, loud, sarcastic brain when I need it? Wake up Brain, wake up!
"Well, from a simply artistic standpoint, they're…mediocre." he said, smirking and handing the binder back to me.
"I'm just saying-"
"My pictures are awesome!" I said, opening my binder for him. I flipped backwards until I found my favorite, the one I developed in free lab a few days ago. It was from the park, when he was looking at the tree. I thought it made him look smart, and deep. Like he actually was. Brain, what are you doing?! He just insulted us; don't go calling him smart and deep!
"Look at this one." I said, pushing the book back in his arms. He smiled and looked over the photo, nodding like one of those annoying nodding dogs that people put on their dashboards.
"It's okay." he said, simply.
Utterly frustrated, I snatched my book back, with all intentions of leaving him alone in his own arrogance. To think, I wasted all that film on him! That pig-headed, annoying,…
"What I'm saying is, they can be…improved. Trust me, I have a little experience photographing people when they don't know about it." he stated, leaning against the sink casually. Did he know I knew?
"Really?" I asked, equally as sinister.
"Really. If you want, I could show you a few pointers. I mean, you never did see me taking those photos of you, after all…" he said, dropping another piece of photo paper into the developer. He motioned for me to come and look at the photo, and I stood next to him and leaned over the sink.
Appearing in the paper was the photo that he took in class, the one where he pulled me towards him and snapped the picture. He looked absolutely elated, and I looked a combination of excited confused and scared.
"That's my favorite."
I had to admit defeat.
Someone finally shot the Paparazzi.
A/N: That was fun. I like Helga's perspective, becasue I think she's crazier than she'll let us know. Especially regarding Arnold. I absolutely love the subject matter, because I'm going to school for Photography and Graphic Design, so this is my life right now. I originally wrote this in dedication to that, but guess what! Guess!!
This morning I went on an interview for a Photographer's Assistant, and I got the job!! I'm really excited. You should be too. Also, I've always wanted to write Alan Redman (From "Rich Guy") as an artistic type person in Hillwood. So I did.
Anyway, I got the job, but before the interview, I was crazy nervous. I couldn't sleep all night, and when I did get to sleep, I woke up at early anyway. My mom was up (she's an early riser…) and I went in her room and…well, this crazy conversation insued:
Mom: What are you doing up so early?
Me: I don't know what shoes to wear (Because I had a dream that I wore the wrong shoes to the interview and they didn't hire me).
Mom: Don't be so nervous. You'll do fine.
Me: What if I say something stupid?
Mom: Like what, Antoinette (that's my real name, by the way. I tried to convince my family to call me PointyO, but they won't…)?
Me: What if I start singing "Istanbul"?
Mom: What is that?
Me: It's a song…by They Might Be Giants. (notices that she's not getting it, and begins to sing) 'Istanbul was Constantinople, now it's Istanbul, not Constantiople, Been a long time gone, Contan-'
Mom: Okay, okay…where'd you hear that song?
Me:…Tiny Toon Adventures…
Mom: (After a moment of shaking her head and probably wondering why I am so very strange) Hey! You can tell them about that!
Me: About what? How Istanbul was Constantinople, now it's Istanbul, not Con-
Mom: (interrupting) No, about cartoons!
Me: Are you feeling alright, mother?
Mom: Tell them about Hey Arnold! (insert confused look from me) Tell them about all that stuff you write about at all hours of the night.
Mom: Maybe you can write down the website, and they can read it!
Me: Yeah, that'll get me the job. "Even though I'm applying for a Photographer's Assistant, I'd like to show you some of the fan fiction that I write, about a cartoon kid with a football shaped head!"
Mom: They'll think you're creative…
Me: They'll think I'm psycho…
Either way, Antoinette got the job. I did mention in the interview that I like writing, so…thanks Mom. Anyway, that's where this inspiration came from. Next update is The Compromise. The Roses. Then Awkward. Good stuff coming for all three, I promise.
I wish I could explain all the Photographic thingies up there, but it would be long and a little boring unless you saw me. Anyway, the reference to yellow and purple photos is from personal experience. A photo can come out yellow if it's left in the stop bath for too long (that's the stuff that stops the developer from…developing) and it's purple if it's not left in the fixer (fixer is the chemical that...fixes stuff. I don't completely understand it myself) for long enough. My purple and yellow photos are mostly that way because the lab assistant was always rushing me around and turning on the lights when I was developing, and I'm all like, "Hey! Stop turning on the lights when I'm developing!" My lab assistant (last semester) wasn't a nasally guy, but it was his teacher. The nasally guy was from the photo class one level higher than mine, and he'd be all uppity and try to tell me how to develop my film. Loser.
The song "Paparazzi" is by Lady Gaga, whom I am obsessed with right now. Her music is just plain, ole great.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to work. Not the Photo job I just got, the soon to be ex-job that doesn't pay enough...
Goodbye American Eagle Outfitters!!
Well, that's all! Thanks for reading! Later Days!